Wetsch wins award for work on Harmon trail
By Brian L. Gray
It took several members of county staff and private contractors to see through years of planning – in addition to relying on the work of Mother Nature – to build the Harmon Lake Recreational Area north of Mandan. But it ultimately came down to the work of one person to put together the creation of the Harmon Lake’s biking and hiking trail, which has been named Otter Creek Trail.
For his work in the planning and subsequent promotion of the 8.9-mile trail, Jamie Wetsch was honored recently as the 2013 State Trail Worker of the Year. He was presented the award at the 21st American Trails International Trails Symposium held in Arizona.
The award recognizes an individual that has demonstrated outstanding contributions and provided consistent support for trail planning, development or maintenance. It is intended to recognize the commitment and efforts of a private or public sector individual working for enhanced trail recreation in their local area.
Mountain biking is a serious hobby of his, and that is what drove Wetsch to inquire about a trail at Harmon Lake. Wetsch says he and three others came forward to the Morton County Resource District to ask if his team could prepare a plan for building the trail. The resource district approved the request, and in 2009 the resource district received a Recreational Trails Program Grant to develop a single track trail at Harmon Lake.
With the grant, a team of trail builders was hired to develop a trail to help guide the construction. Wetsch was a member of the team and worked to provide input on the design of the trail. Work included marking the land with markers with the help of aerial guidelines and GPS mapping.
He says one of the most exciting parts of the mapping was working on land that had yet to be developed.
“It was fun walking parts of land that who knows how long it had been since someone had been on that land,” Wetsch says.
When the construction was complete, Wetsch stayed involved in the trail’s maintenance. In 2012 Wetsch led an effort to develop an agreement between the Morton County Water Resource District and Central Dakota Cyclists, a local biking group of which he is a member, to maintain the trail each summer. Wetsch now also serves on the board of the water resource district.
Wade Bachmeier, the chairman of the Morton County Resource District, says the trail has received an overwhelmingly positive reputation and has become a destination point for outdoors recreationalists.
“It’s been receiving rave reviews, and we have Wetsch to thank for it. He’s been very instrumental in this process,” he said.
Wetsch still works these days to help promote the trail. Some of the programs he coordinates include a Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day, an event designed to encourage communities to ride mountain bikes with youth. He also works to organize Harmon Rec Day, which is scheduled for June 23 this year.
Wetsch works at NISC in Mandan as a computer programmer. He has lived in Mandan his entire life, “except for a few years when I was in college.” His passion for biking began in the early 1990s, which he continues today for reasons of both exercise and appreciating nature.
“These days it seems the world is so electronic and connected. Bicycling is a good way to unplug, so to speak, and go where I don’t have to deal with a world of cell phones, text messages and emails, and enjoy the outdoors,” Wetsch says.
Although he had gone to great lengths to see that the community has, and maintains, a quality bike trail, Wetsch says he did have another motive that helped drive him: domestic proximity.
“I live about four miles from Harmon Lake, so I admit it was a little selfish on my part, because it’s so close to my home,” Wetsch says.