PENN, N.D. A township road to a sometimes-popular fishing spot in the Devils Lake Basin remains closed after being damaged this spring, but options for repairing and reopening the road are being explored, officials say.

The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department last month issued a notice that 72nd Avenue Northeast, the road to Mikes Lake northeast of Penn, N.D., was being closed “until road repairs can be assessed and funds can be appropriated.”

The closure was implemented in coordination with local township officials, the sheriff’s department said. A barricade remained in place Tuesday, June 30, about 6 miles up the road north of U.S. Highway 2.

The gravel road reportedly saw heavy traffic this spring by anglers who launched their boats at the end of a flooded road grade that serves as a launching site to Mikes Lake, which is part of the Irvine-Alice-Mikes Complex east of Lake Alice National Wildlife Refuge. There is no formal boat ramp on the lake.

Mikes Lake is part of the Irvine-Alice-Mikes Complex east of Lake Alice National Wildlife Refuge. (North Dakota Game and Fish Department)
Mikes Lake is part of the Irvine-Alice-Mikes Complex east of Lake Alice National Wildlife Refuge. (North Dakota Game and Fish Department)

Anglers then either parked their vehicle-trailer rigs along the road or a nearby small parking area at the entrance to a federal waterfowl production area managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The traffic became more than the road could handle, the sheriff’s department said in its notice.

“These roads have been heavily traveled rain or shine and have caused serious structural issues to where local landowners cannot access their property, and township officials have had to pay excess maintenance fees that these local governments cannot afford to upkeep,” the sheriff’s department said.

Road repair options will be explored throughout the summer, the sheriff’s department said, and any updates to reopening the road will be announced through local media.

Ryan Schemionek, chairman of Dry Lake Township, one of the affected townships, could not be reached prior to publication of this report.

Jeff Frith, a Ramsey County commissioner and manager of the Devils Lake Basin Joint Water Resource Board, said he recently was in contact with township representatives, most of whom were busy with spring fieldwork.

Because it’s a township road, townships have the authority to decide how to proceed, Frith said.

“I know they’d like to get it fixed sometime this summer,” he said.

Gravel roads across the Devils Lake Basin were in “incredibly tough shape” this spring, Frith said, likely because of extremely wet conditions last fall.

“A lot of frost boils, a lot of soft spots and when you add a lot of traffic in that, they just became worse and worse, and it seems like there was no bottom to those frost boils,” Frith said. “We’ve had issues with those on our county roads. I know townships have struggled with trying to maintain access on their township roads.

”Keeping citizens safe while traveling on our roads is a primary concern, and the tough conditions make that challenging,” Frith added. “Safety first.”

Greg Power, fisheries chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck, said the department reached out to the townships about three years ago when the flooded road grade to Mikes Lake first became a popular access point, offering to assist with filling potholes and helping with road grading and other maintenance.

Despite the offer, Game and Fish is “somewhat on the periphery of the issue,” Power said, calling it a local issue that needs a local resolution.

“This go-round, when we received word that the road had been closed, we again reached out, but this time to a few in the Devils Lake community who are local leaders in local matters,” Power said in an email.

Game and Fish “will partner with others, if need be, to again open up the public access road,” Power said.

“We have gone on record that we would help fund some of the needed road repair if that’s what is required — and assuming any requests are reasonable,” he said.