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Letter: Save the Crooked Crane Trail

The Crooked Crane Trail, originally a 17-mile loop circling Patterson Lake, has been the source of some of my greatest pleasure since moving to Dickinson in 2008. As a newcomer, walking along the southeast shore at sunset has helped to make Dickinson home.

I know I am not alone in mourning the loss of this trail to the ceaseless degradation of the land that seems to accompany resource development. In the southeast shore area, the pristine grasslands were strewn with tires, mattresses and other rubbish, scattered with inhabited and abandoned tents, and shorn barren by the placement of a pipeline. Deep ruts were gouged into the prairie roads by thrill-seeking pickup drivers, and signs prohibiting vehicle use were riddled with bullets and surrounded by beer bottles and shell casings. The owners and city responded in what likely seemed the only possible resolution: by enclosing the entire area in barbed wire and prohibiting all vehicle access.

Unfortunately, this restriction on vehicle access has prevented pedestrian access as well, despite the signs allowing walking access. Without vehicle traffic or any other sort of maintenance, the trails have been rendered impassible by thickets of invasive Canada thistle and tumbleweed such as usually fill disturbed areas. The once peaceful summer shoreline walk now requires heavy pants, sturdy boots, and a first-aid kit for injuries acquired in the now-invisible tire ruts.

While re-establishing the entire Crooked Crane trail seems unlikely due to oil development in the southern wetlands area, Dickinson can and must preserve the walking trails on the southeast shore as a much-needed natural respite near to town. The recreation-oriented Patterson Lake Recreation Area on the eastern shore simply cannot equal the natural beauty of the western-facing waving grasslands at sunset. While the city may not have time and human power to maintain the trail, we trail-users can work with the city and landowners to renew and maintain looped non-vehicular walking, biking and horseback riding trails in this beautiful area.

The southeastern shore of Patterson Lake is decidedly the Dickinson area’s greatest natural above-ground asset. Dickinson should not squander this resource, so integral to the quality of life of its people.

Please join me in a collective effort to renew this trail by emailing me at or visiting “Crooked Crane Trail” on Facebook. We must act now before this last vestige of natural beauty is lost.

Suzanne Russ,