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Construction of Crooked Crane Trail around Patterson Lake ahead of schedule

The Crooked Crane Trail revival project on Patterson Lake could be completed sooner than first planned. Dickinson City Administrator Shawn Kessel said the mild spring weather allowed workers from Winn Construction, the lead contractor for the pro...

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Workers continue to finalize installations of various amenities along the Crooked Crane Trail segment being completed along Patterson Lake. The concrete work was finished earlier than expected for the 1.8 miles of trail, which might lead to an earlier opening date than first anticipated for the recreation site.

The Crooked Crane Trail revival project on Patterson Lake could be completed sooner than first planned.

Dickinson City Administrator Shawn Kessel said the mild spring weather allowed workers from Winn Construction, the lead contractor for the project, to get an early start on pouring the 1.8 miles of concrete for the trail segment that partially overlooks the lake's swimming beach near the Dickinson Parks and Recreation entrance.

Kessel said the trail's ribbon-cutting was originally scheduled for September, but there's now a chance it could officially open in August-which would place the completion on the same timeline as the North Dakota Trail Conference, which is being held in Dickinson from Aug. 1-3.

That completion schedule might be "a little aggressive," Kessel said, but would present an ideal opportunity to unveil the finished product, which is one of the convention's main topics.

"It's nice to see that level of statewide attention being paid to that trail, and it's not even completed yet," he said. "It also means there's high expectations that the trail will be successful, but after being on it last night and earlier this week, I think people will be quite pleased."

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Though the concrete has been poured, construction crews are still working to complete the installation of the trail's three "pods" of playground and exercise equipment. Workers will also be tying up other loose ends, such as putting in benches and leveling the surface of the ground to match the trail and blend it into its landscape

The total price tag for the project, which could be the first phase of a potential three-phase trail that would encircle the lake, is around $1.4 million.

Kessel said the primary source of funding for the project thus far came through a grant for nearly $1 million from the state's Outdoor Heritage Fund. Beyond that, the Bureau of Reclamation contributed around $200,000, the city of Dickinson invested $150,000 and parks and recreation gave $50,000.

The lake itself and the land around it is owned by the Bureau of Reclamation, which leases around 12,000 acres of the area to the city. Dickinson Parks and Recreation is tasked with managing the land.

Kessel said the level of the city's involvement in the project is "a little bit of a reach," given that Patterson Lake is not within Dickinson's city limits, but the city saw the potential quality of life investment as being worth the funds and effort.

"The motivation behind doing this project is quality of life, bottom line," he said. "When you bring up a quality of life project that the residents have been asking for in various surveys or discussion points, trail systems always come up."

Parks and Recreation Director James Kramer said the city is largely undertaking the financial end of while his own organization is assisting with the design, operation and maintenance of what will be a new amenity for the parks district.

"When you look at the design on paper, the whole winter I always thought it'd be a real neat trail," Kramer said. "But now that you see the concrete and the elevation changes and the views of the lake, it's by far the best piece of trail we have in our system."

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The long-term plan for the area could place the concrete trail as the first phase of reconstructing the original Crooked Crane Trail, a mostly natural 17.3-mile loop of path that wound around the edge of Patterson Lake.

The trail fell into disrepair over time and became overgrown in places.

Kramer said the final version of the revived trail might not reach the same length as the original, but could eventually take on a similar scope.

The project's engineering consultant said the current segment of trail was tackled first due to its relative ease.

Brett Gurholt, a landscape architect with KLJ Engineering, said the initial phase was a good starting point because it didn't have any need for crossings over water or routing through wetlands-both of which would be necessary on other parts of the lake.

Gurholt said the first phase is also the only piece to be built with a hardtop, which is partially due to its being readily accessible by machines and work crews. A more natural surface is also conducive to saving on costs as the trail grows longer and longer.

Though KLJ does similar work for trails in other park districts, Gurholt said the lakefront is "really special" and has contributed to a unique design.

He said the project's team of landscape architects visited the lake to get a feel for the land and to identify spots where different trail elements could be placed to best capture views of the water.

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"When we laid out the trail, the best way we could do it was by walking it," Gurholt said.

He added that the trail project had been "one of the most repeated" pieces of resident input when KLJ worked with the city in 2011 to lay out the "Dickinson 2035: Roadmap to the Future" development plan.

"Lots of residents were interested in enhancing and developing what used to be the Crooked Crane Trail," Gurholt said. "People really seem to enjoy it, so we hope this improves access to things and encourages people to get out and enjoy it more."

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