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Friends of Fort Defiance break trails

By Staff | Feb 28, 2008

This wooded area could find itself as part of an interpretive trail that the Iowa Lakes Community College Conservation Club students are planning for Fort Defiance State Park. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

The Friends of Fort Defiance broke a lot of trails at the group’s monthly meeting Tuesday night at the Estherville Public Library Community Room.

President Gary Phillips said an interpretive trail between the old ranger’s house and the west parking lot had been mapped with GPS and a request would be put in to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources next week for the project. If approved, Phillips’ environmental studies students in the Conservation Club would provide labor for the project and pay for signage.

The quarter-mile trail would include a bench on the bluff overlooking School Section Creek Valley. There are also plans for a wildlife observation blind along the trail.

Phillips was quite hopeful of project approval. He said DNR Director Rich Leopold had placed interpretive trails at the top of his project.

In other business, new officers were elected for the current year. They include John Wittneben, president; Mike Tidemann, vice president, Lori Donovan, secretary; and Laura Young, treasurer. Diana Pritts will continue as historian. In a newly created position, Judy Grethen will take the position of membership committee chair.

Members of the Friends of Fort Defiance have discussed turning the former workshop into a Civilian Conservations Corps interpretive center. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

Phillips noted the many projects in which the Friends group has participated. Those projects include building a new trail from the native prairie area and along Spring Creek to School Section Creek, production of a brochure promoting the park, painting 51 picnic tables, building a culvert, work on the prairie area, four summer seminars presented by Phillips the summer of 2006, and GPS surveying of Civilian Conservation Corps artifacts. The Friends of Fort Defiance has donated nearly 750 hours of labor to date.

Phillips said his students had donated 200 hours removing invasive species. There was also a campout for Kinship children, parents, mentors, and board members with assistance from the Friends of Fort Defiance, Boy Scouts, Emmet County 4-H Council, and other groups. Other accomplishments have included participation with the Emmet County Water Trails group, articles in the Estherville Daily News, producing a brochure for the Friends group, an article about the Friends and the park in Agrinews magazine, work on the picnic area, work on the west ski trail, GPSing the trail system, and surveying the campground with an eye toward upgrading the electrical system.

Goals for the coming year are to mow the prairie trail on the south side of the park, trail signage, the interpretive trail, and topping for the new Spring Creek trail. Phillips said the Estherville Garden Club was interested in doing plantings around the lodge. Other projects include investigating the possibility of a dock section bridge and reestablishing CCC artifacts. The group is also pursuing obtaining its 501c3 nonprofit status designation.

Wittneben said the VFW had indicated interest in hosting a benefit dinner for the Friends group. He also suggested that T-shirts with a logo could be printed for group members who wanted to buy them.

The next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 18 at the Estherville Public Library Community Room. Annual memberships in the Friends group are $5 per individual and $10 for families.

To join, send your check to: Friends of Fort Defiance, P.O. Box 314, Estherville, IA 51334.