Staff at Turtle River State Park are exploring ideas to expand their outdoor education offerings, possibly with summer day camps for kids, and adult courses such as rod building and orienteering.

Interest appears to be strong, said Larry Hagen, manager of Turtle River State Park.

“We’re still compiling what kind of classes are out there and what kind of interests are out there,” Hagen said. “We’re just trying to change things up a little bit instead of the traditional Friday night, Saturday morning, Saturday night, Sunday morning” types of programs.

Located near Arvilla, N.D., Turtle River State Park is 22 miles west of Grand Forks off U.S. Highway 2.

The idea of expanded program offerings follows a series of surveys that park naturalist Erika Kolbow posted on the park’s Facebook page. The survey on adult programs generated 130 responses within the first hour, Hagen said.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

“She was really excited about the response rate,” Hagen said. “So we’re looking at what we can do that ties us into the community a little bit better, opens up some doors.”

Summer youth day camps would be offered in the middle of the week, along with the weekend naturalist programs the park has offered for years, Hagen said. The idea is to create new interest in the park and its programs and also “recharge the batteries” of park staff, he said.

Fly fishing and wilderness first aid also are among the possibilities for adult programs, Hagen said.

“There are a lot of people that maybe never had the time or the ability to go out and learn how to run a GPS or learn how to use a fly rod or build a fishing rod or do wilderness first aid,” Hagen said. “So that’s what we’re looking at -- what kinds of things are out there that maybe we can tie into.

“We have such a nice population in the Grand Forks area that there has to be people that want to learn more.”

Adult programs conceivably could begin as early as this winter, Hagen said, since the park’s visitor center is a year-round facility. Youth programs will take shape as the summer staffing picture becomes clearer.

“We’re pretty excited about this,” Hagen said. “We’re still looking at what we can do this winter just to kind of start creating the buzz going around or the impact of ‘Wow, I had such a great time, I’d like to go back out there for another class.’”

A couple of people also have reached out about helping out as visiting educators, Hagen said.

“That opens the door even a little bit wider to have something like this go on,” he said. “I think there’s great opportunities out there.”

Turtle River State Park had a good summer season, and visitation numbers have been stable, with an “uptick” in camping, Hagen said. The park had about 6,000 "camper nights" for the summer and 80,000 day users for the year through October, he said.

The addition of 5.25 miles of new trails in the past three years also has helped drive park numbers, Hagen said.

“People have started to discover those extra trails, whether they want to go fat tire biking or running or snowshoeing or that type of thing, and we’ve tried to set them up so they’re more year-round type trails vs. summertime,” Hagen said. “That’s helped us a bit; we’ve got a few more other people finding us and doing that.

“So, slowly, we’re just trying to really set ourselves out there as a great place to be like we’ve always tried to do but now just being a little bit smarter about how we’re doing it.”

For more information, check out the park’s Facebook page at facebook.com/prdtrsp or call (701) 795-3180.

Dokken reports on outdoors. Call him at (701) 780-1148, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1148 or send email to bdokken@gfherald.com.