If a possible grant is approved, Dunn Center could potentially receive recreation and environmental improvements to one property.
By Zak Wellerman
The Dunn Center community development is a pilot project alongside a similar project in Watford City titled the Bakken Development and Working Lands Program. It is now a grant application with the Outdoor Heritage Fund with a $3 million request for both areas.
The Natural Resources Trust has partnered with the Dunn County commission, Dunn County Soil Conservation District, the Badlands Advisory Group and other organizations to improve the quality of life in North Dakota counties affected by oil production.
Established in 1986 as the North Dakota Wetlands Trust, the NRT has a mission to preserve, restore, manage and enhance wetlands and associated wildlife habitat, grasslands, and riparian areas in the state of North Dakota, according to its website.
County commissioner Daryl Dukart said there is a property in Dunn Center sitting dormant that could be put to use for the community. It was purchased by investors long ago. This project would update the land with recreational walking trails, pollination gardens and provide outdoor education.
“This is for energy situations that turned bad. The oil market dictates a lot of what happens,” Dukart said.
If the grant is approved, Dunn Center residents could use a 1.3 mile long walking path. It’s basically about recreation, wellness and bird watchers. It could take five to seven years before the property would need just minimal maintenance, Dukart said.
Dukart added that if possible he would like to see the walking path be able to connect to Lake Ilo.
The main goals for the BDWLP in the Bakken region is to “1) create and enhance working agricultural lands and wildlife habitat near energy sites as well as throughout the broader landscape; 2) create urban nature/interpretive sites, and 3) coordinate and facilitate energy site reclamation where no current responsible party exists,” according to the grant application.
Jesse Beckers, a conversation program coordinator with NRT, said there will be a presentation on May 14 with OHF to see if the grant will be approved. If not approved, the project will not happen. If it does work out, the development in Dunn Center would begin this summer.
“We’re really excited about the partnerships and projects and happy with Badlands Advisory Group. The leadership has been superb,” Beckers said.
In addition to the application, Beckers and Dukart received a letter of support from the City of Dunn Center during the April 12 council meeting.
If the projects in Watford City and Dunn Center go well, Beckers and Dukart said it would open the door for other developments in other areas of the 19 oil-producing counties in North Dakota.
The goal is to “provide opportunities for recreation and environment” in oil-producing counties, Beckers said.