By Kimberly Cook
In early September, the Engel’s Point Wildlife Management Area (WMA) was dedicated before a crowd of nearly 50 people, including representatives from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and Nelson County Commission, and Garrison Diversion Conservancy District (Garrison Diversion) board members and staff.
The 265-acre property along the south shore of Stump Lake seven miles north of Tolna in Nelson County was donated to Garrison Diversion for public recreational uses in the 1970s by local farmer Orville Engel. The tract boasts impressive scenic views of Stump Lake and is comprised of native prairie, wooded areas, rocky shorelines and 63 acres of cropland.
In 2019, Garrison Diversion determined a longterm management plan was needed to maximize public recreational opportunities at Engel’s Point.
“We had been looking for some time for something we could do that would be the highest and best use of the property,” Garrison Diversion General Manager Duane DeKrey said. “We reached out to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department to see if they’d be interested in managing the property.”
That same year, a management and public use plan was developed, and Garrison Diversion, Nelson County and the Game and Fish Department entered into a 50-year agreement to develop the property into a public wildlife and recreational area. In addition to Engel’s generous donation, the cooperation of these agencies brought the WMA to fruition.
In order for the project to really take off, the property’s access road needed to be built up and repaired to be suitable for safe public access. Garrison Diversion’s Cody Johnson, Nelson County Commission chairman, Jeb Williams, Game and Fish Department director, Duane DeKrey, Garrison Diversion Conservancy District manager, and Steve Forde, Nelson County Commission vice chairman.
Operations and Maintenance (O&M) staff completed that effort. The project included rebuilding the flooded base of the road and construction of a new road segment from the point where the existing county road enters the lake to the south boundary of the property. Rip rap shoring was also placed along the road to prevent wave-action erosion.
“Public access was a really, really important piece of the puzzle, and you guys really hit it out of the park,” North Dakota Game and Fish Department Director Jeb Williams told the Garrison Diversion’s O&M staff. “We’re happy to be here today celebrating a unique partnership.”
Nelson County will provide long-term road maintenance. “This here is our newest wildlife management area. We have a beautiful 265 acres of native and seeded grassland, with a nice woody component along the shoreline, which makes it really good wildlife habitat,” said Brian Prince, Game and Fish Department wildlife resource management supervisor in Devils Lake.
There is additional work to be completed yet, as the Game and Fish Department will be creating two parking areas and making some enhancements for the public. Motorized vehicles will not be allowed past the parking areas, and the area will be walking access only. Primitive camping and shore fishing opportunities will be abundant. Nelson County and the Game and Fish Department are working on a courtesy boat dock to allow Stump Lake boaters to utilize the structure and walk on a mowed walking trail.
“There are amazing opportunities here for the public,” Prince said. “If you build it, they will come.”