A place by the lake: Task force driven by veterans’ groups hopes to establish a new community space on Patterson Lake

Patterson Lake could have a new waterside attraction in store for its future. An early effort being driven by a task force, including a coalition of Dickinson veteran's groups -- with the American Legion at its core -- is seeking to build a recre...

Shown left to right, Scott Decker, City Commissioner and veteran, Jay Elkin, Stark County Commissioner, Pamela Bumgardner, Best Friends Mentoring Prohram development coordinator, and North Dakota State Rep. Alan Fehr. Each person is a member of the Patterson Lake Task Force which met Wednesday to discuss improvement plans for the lake. (Press Photo by Andrew Haffner)

Patterson Lake could have a new waterside attraction in store for its future.

An early effort being driven by a task force, including a coalition of Dickinson veteran’s groups -- with the American Legion at its core -- is seeking to build a recreation center aimed at providing a brick-and-mortar home for veterans’ activities and improving community recreation at the lake.

State Rep. Alan Fehr, chair of the Patterson Lake Task Force’s Leadership Committee and a past commander of American Legion Post 3, said the initial concept for the space was conceived more than a year ago.

From the beginning, Fehr said, the clubhouse was envisioned as both community-oriented and “veteran friendly.”

“There’s a military culture that those of us who have been in the military just kind of resonate to, it speaks to us,” Fehr said.“To walk into a building that has stuff on the walls, from the building name to just the atmosphere, it would just feel like home to have a place. And then, to have a place along on the lake where you can sit up on a balcony, have a burger, have a beer -- it sounds like a great idea.”


Early ideas for the concept include a swimming area, a restaurant of some kind and a hall that could be used to host events.

From that base, a much wider range of ideas branch out, ranging from a marina, which could be used for paddleboat rentals and boat refueling, to an archery range, a bait shop and a small convenience store to service the Patterson Lake campground.

The group is also exploring options to fight algae and improve water quality at the lake through a collaboration with Dickinson’s Medora Corp., makers of the SolarBee water-cleaning circulator.

Stan Davis, post commander of American Legion Post 3, said the potential lakeside clubhouse would hopefully tie into the wider re-establishment of the Crooked Crane Trail, the first phase of which is set to begin construction this summer.

Though the planning for the space is still in its preliminary stages, Davis said the basic idea of the project has so far received a favorable reception.

Fehr thinks the facility is a 10-year project. Davis hopes to have the building completed in half that time, which he thinks is doable with local and corporate support.

“There’s a lot of businesses out there that would want to donate for this, but they don’t know when we’d start,” Davis said.

So far, the group has received about $7,000 in usable funds from a Bush Foundation Grant, a sum that it will put toward feasibility studies at the site.


The task force has officially been meeting since last October and has come to comprise a broad array of community leaders. The group now includes Dickinson Parks and Recreation Director James Kramer, Dickinson City Administrator Shawn Kessel, Dickinson City Commissioner Scott Decker, a veteran himself, and Stark County Commissioner Jay Elkin.

Kramer said his department was first approached about the concept by a veterans’ group consisting mainly of American Legion members in late February 2015.

He said the land around Patterson Lake that would be used for the project is federally owned by the Bureau of Reclamation, but is managed locally by Dickinson Parks and Recreation.

As such, Kramer’s department was able to facilitate some organizational meetings “to see where the concept came from and if it had any legs to take off and go.”

Planning has continued and intensified since then, he said, but still remains at an early stage of development.

“I think there are a lot of hurdles that need to be cleared, and they’re getting over them one by one,” he said. “But it’s so early in the process that for every answer there are more questions.”

The matter of actual ownership and management of the building and its grounds is one question yet to be answered.

Kramer said his department would not be responsible for the building and any business conducted in it, and didn’t imagine Parks and Recreation would be involved with providing the funds for the building’s construction and maintenance.


Rather, he said, Parks and Recreation would lend itself to providing the proper permits for the center to run in the manner it eventually takes on.

Darrell Neubert, a veteran and an entrepreneurial coach at Dickinson State University’s Strom Center, serves as the committee’s building chair and has been responsible for formulating some ideas on what a building would look like.

Neubert said his brother, a Los Angeles-based architect, has provided some early concept drawings which, along with the help of Rob Remark of JLG Architects, were used to provide a “500-foot view” of what the space may look like in a site plan.

Neubert said he’s working with Kramer to draft a request for proposal to distribute to bidders to conduct a feasibility study to provide an “objective third-party” view on the project as envisioned.

One of the main things to be addressed in that study is the future of ownership for the prospective facility.

“They’re building their lake house and don’t know who’s going to run it,” Neubert said. “It doesn’t mean it’s not feasible, there’s tons of ways we can make it happen. But we need to ask ourselves those hard questions first.”

Fehr said there are multiple studies that will need to be conducted to determine what is possible and what is not.

“It’s a huge project and it’s going to cost a lot of money,” he said. “We’ve got about six studies, and, theoretically, any one of those studies can really put a big damper on things. But we need to get through this initial phase and get these studies done to really know what’s going to work and then move forward.”

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