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By Caroline Downs
Chad Zorn, Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge manager, was happy to see the staff join him at headquarters last Thursday, following action by Congress to end the 16-day government shutdown.
“We were notified between 10 and 11 pm Wednesday night,” he said, “so I called my staff and told them they’d be reporting for work Thursday morning.”
According to Zorn, refuge personnel started work on Thursday by removing barricades and signs from closed roads and facilities on the refuge. “We opened the Visitors Center to the public, too,” he said.
The public has normal access to the refuge again, although the Scenic Tour Route south of Kenmare remains closed from the city limits to the Munch’s Coulee Nature Trail for work to continue replacing a bridge on the Brickyard Road.
Zorn reported concrete walls for the bridge were poured Friday. “They’re making good progress on that, so it will hopefully be completed by the end of the month,” he added.
canceled till next year
Unfortunately, the government shutdown did not end soon enough to save the refuge’s annual Haunted Hayride event.
The hayride was originally scheduled for October 16th, but no preparation could take place for the event and no advertising could be done during the shutdown.
Zorn said he discussed rescheduling the hayride with refuge personnel, but the staff ran into several conflicts when attempting to choose another date.
“We have too much going on with the limited resources we have,” Zorn said. He noted some staff members would be attending training programs, while others had to complete maintenance ordered for the refuge before freeze-up prevents the necessary excavation and dirt work.
“We have to cancel the Haunted Hayride for this year,” said Zorn. “I know there are some disappointed kids and parents who look forward to coming out here for this. Hopefully, we’ll be back in stride for next year.”
No problems during shutdown
Zorn continued working during the shutdown as an “excepted” employee, responsible for general enforcement of laws on the refuge and for monitoring the facilities and natural resources. He said he did encounter a few hunters during the two-week period who had questions about the situation, but no one caused any problems.
“Public use of the refuge this time of year is relatively slow, so it worked out,” he said. “It’s a good feeling to have the staff back, though, and be going on with business as usual.”
Persons with questions about bow-hunting or other types of hunting available on the refuge are welcome to contact Zorn during business hours at 701-385-4046 ext. 225.