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Denbigh Day celebrates unique site

By Staff | Oct 5, 2018

Golden fall foliage provided a colorful backdrop last Friday evening for the second annual Denbigh Day, collaboration between the North Dakota and United States Forest Service at Denbigh Experimental Forest, 33 miles west of Rugby.

The event featured educational opportunities for area schools and community members to connect with nature and discover a national forest in their own backyard.

“We’ve been calling it Annual Denbigh Day for a reason, and we hope it keeps bringing in more information and more students out into the woods,” said Casey Johnson, who serves as the Acting Resources Staff Officer for the United States Forest Service at the Dakota Prairie Grasslands.

“Last year, the reason I decided to put together a community event, was to leverage Public Lands Day,” Johnson said. ” That was my effort to introduce the community to the forest service.”

Johnson said he discovered a need for public engagement when he moved to his present position after living in Montana. He also found a need to increase awareness of the US Forest System’s role in the park, located west of Towner, in McHenry County.

“I found depending on who you talk to, a lot of people interact with the North Dakota Forest Service, because they do a lot of work in the community, but we need to start doing that, too. Certainly, getting the public out to the evening event helps them learn about what we do, and who we are, and the partnerships we have in Denbigh and various other things.”

Denbigh Day 2018 began the morning of September 28 with educational activities for area schools, invited to participate in activities to learn about public lands. Glenda Fauske, Information and Education Coordinator for the North Dakota Forest Service, organized the event together with Johnson and US Forest Service staff.

That evening, the park opened to the public for an opportunity to bring a picnic supper and socialize around a campfire. State and Federal forest service employees provided smores to attendees who came from Pierce, McHenry and Bottineau Counties in North Dakota, as well as Minneapolis, Minnesota. A National Forest Service employee stopped by, taking a detour off Highway 2 on her trip from Pennsylvania to Montana. Other staff stationed at the forest came from Minnesota, Montana, and Bismarck, North Dakota.

Attendees and staff gathered around the fire and introduced themselves, listening to stories about Denbigh’s unique history and value to the public. Johnson, Clint Kohlarich and Aaron Gaither of the US Forest Service answered questions, and Derek Lowstuter of the North Dakota Forest Service provided information as well.

Lowstuter, who serves as State Forest Stewardship Manager, said, “There hasn’t been the capacity to have much outreach or active management in Denbigh for really, the past few decades, but now that Casey is down in Lisbon, and we’re kind of re-establishing our capacity at the North Dakota Forest Service, we’re able to actively promote Denbigh, and manage it, both for the resource, as well as just a nice place for the public to visit. “

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