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In Da Woods

by Melanie B. Fullman, US Forest Service

Making a Difference

I’ve mentioned their names and activities in the past, but in the last several weeks, I’ve seen so many of them in the act of volunteering that I wanted to make sure they get the recognition they deserve. The following is just a small sample of various volunteers on the Bessemer District, and the difference they make:

Lawn Ranger

If you driven east from Wakefield on either US 2 or SH 28, you’ve probably noticed the Ottawa Forest “portal” signs – those big wooden signs set in concrete bases that announce when you enter and leave the general National Forest area.

As recently as 5 years ago, the signs and surrounding grass were maintained by Forest Service employees, often older employees participating in a job skills training program. When funding for the program dried up, the signs and mowing were one of many tasks deemed ‘non-essential’. It didn’t take long in this climate for them to start looking shabby, and for folks to complain.

Pictured above, Ken Jeffries, of Wakefield, noticed them too. But instead of just muttering about them, he offered to fix, re-paint, and maintain them. This is the third year he has offered his assistance, which includes weekly mowing and annual patching and painting.

I caught him in the act of Caring for the Land a few weeks ago, riding the range like a valiant lawn ranger. When I asked why he was doing it so early (shortly after 7 AM), he explained the weather forecast indicated it might rain and he wanted to get it done so it would look nice for the upcoming holiday weekend.

Thank you Ken Jeffries for making our signs look great!

Life’s a Picnic

Paul Johnson, of Bessemer, has been volunteering one day a week for us since last fall on lots of different projects. Lately, he’s been putting together what must seem like an endless stack of new picnic tables. Although pre-cut and fabricated, each table takes about an hour. They’re heavy and his work space has limited tools and electrical outlets.

Still, they’re lighter-weight than our old tables and have an extra long working surface on one end – to accommodate a wheelchair of other similar device. The finished tables have already been hauled down to Black River Harbor, where I’m sure they will be quickly used.

Next time you’re at the Harbor picnic area, especially if a family member has an accessibility need, I hope you will remember to think, and thank, Paul Johnson. He’s helping Serve the Public.


Philip Moon, a Bessemer HS Senior, started helping us just last week as part of a year-long internship. The program offers students a peek at a wide range of careers; Philip is considering natural resources. He’s already making a difference, enabling us to catch up on database entries from our summer surveys of fish, dirt, rocks, trees, roads, bugs, etc.

In addition to the more mundane tasks of managing our data and keeping our offices efficient, Philip will spend a full day each month in the field, learning the specific details of life as a Forest Service hydrologist, timber sale administrator, recreation specialist, biologist, botanist, land surveyor, or other professional. We are excited to be training the next generation; welcome aboard, Philip.

Fall Color

The local members (Ni-Miikanaake Chapter) of the North Country Trail Association have worked hard all summer to keep most of their 52 miles of adopted trail clear of blow-down trees. Each new wind- or rainstorm, it seemed, resulted in more work. In addition, the group has been working feverishly on re-routing several miles of existing trail to address landownership or maintenance issues, or both.

Led by Chapter President Dick Swanson, the group whacked and hacked their way along the Black River, Presque Isle River, and through the Porcupine State Park, undeterred by hordes of mosquitoes and steamy conditions.

On Saturday, Oct. 1, they will temporarily put down their loppers and hand saws to lead a family fall color hike along the Black River. The event is FREE and open to the public, but space is limited and requires making an advance reservation.

We regret the date conflicts with Bessemer’s PumpkinFest. But if you’re not needing a hand-made, cloth pumpkin (I have one myself, so no offense intended) or other autumn adornment, you should put the hike on your calendar (HINT: Men, this is what you can do with the kids instead of going to the craft show…).

The tour includes a choice of three waterfall hikes AND a trip to the top of Copper Peak. Transportation and lunch are also provided at NO cost to participants, thanks to generous donations from Orvana Minerals, Schilleman Bus Service, and Super One. Starts in Ironwood at 8 am; return time is expected to be about 4 pm. What an fantastic opportunity to enjoy the peak of the fall color season, get some great exercise, and meet others who are interested in getting a little more Nature into their lives.

For more information or to register, call Ni-Miikanaake Vice-President Jason Hofstede at 932-0845.

In the Long Run

For as long as the Forest Service has existed, more than a hundred years, volunteers have worked alongside employees in every aspect of forest management. Amidst today’s cry for “less government”, many Ottawa employees struggle to manage and maintain the campgrounds, roads, trails, and other opportunities to a standard the public has come to expect. So many of us are also National Forest visitors – hiking, canoeing, fishing, hunting, collecting firewood, etc. – that we understand and feel the same passion for this place as you.

Having members of the public that are willing to volunteer to help us is deeply gratifying; words seem inadequate to express how much we appreciate the help and support. Nevertheless, to all the volunteers that work with us in and for the woods: Thank You.

pictured above, Ken's wife Joyce who helps with the mowing chore.

Polar Bear Cookbook

Thank you to everyone who submitted recipes for the Polar Bear Hockey Cookbook. The cookbooks are now available. The cost for the cookbooks are $10.00 so make sure to grab one for yourself and maybe one or two as a gift. They can be purchased at the Pat O'Donnel Civic Center concession stand or by contacting Kerry Roehm or Micki Sorensen.


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