Student Voices: Ecotourism in Wadena

My name Katie Hosch, a senior at UMM from the twin cities metro area, finishing up degrees in Environmental Studies and Sciences. As part of my Environmental Studies internship program I teamed up with the Center for Small Towns to improve ecotourism in the Central Minnesota and Wadena area.

Late in 2014, Kent Scheer approached the Center for Small Towns (CST) with an idea: to initiate or increase ecotourism in the area around Wadena, MN. Kent owns the Green Island Preserve in Wadena, which is a renovated family farm whose name stems from the fact that city now surrounds the farm, literally creating a green island. He, like many others, is interested in ecotourism and finding other people interested in ecotourism.

Taken in the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge.

At CST, the project was evaluated and given to a senior, Benjamin Odegaard. He started on the project in the spring of 2015. Ben did a lot of work with laying the foundation for tasks I would do later. He sent out a survey, researched other ecotourism organizations, and gathered information about the future of the project, as well as determining the project’s focus region: Becker, Cass, Crow Wing, Douglas, Hubbard, Morrison, Otter Tail, Todd, and Wadena Counties.

I started at CST in early May and began researching, and roughly two weeks after I started, I met Kent. The meeting went fantastic! Kent had great feedback and his own ideas to add to our project. After the meeting, Rebecca (my CST supervisor) and I explored Kent’s renovated farm and accidentally sank into mud up to our knees. It was quite the experience and the beginning to a great working relationship.

The Lady Slipper Scenic Byway was one of the many scenic byways I went on over the course of the road trip.
Because you never know when a good thing will find you, I always keeping my eyes peeled for unique natural features that would catch the attention of the public. Some of the different things I’ve come across include the Seven Sisters Prairie, various Scientific and Natural Areas, and various wildlife refuges.

In connection with the project, I took a road trip spanning our target region. There were twenty odd sites that we planned on visiting, but along the way I discovered a number of new things and ended up taking us to over thirty locations! Some of the highlights of the trip were the views and sites along the Otter Trail Scenic Byway. There was the historic Phelps Mill, which was a fantastic area to see and a great historic spot to visit. We also found a number of new recreation areas like Orwell Reservoir, Cross Lake, and Cuyuna Country. Another new thing I found was a sign near a DNR nursery that read “1 billionth tree produced by the MN DNR State Forestry Nursery Planted April 21st 2009 by Todd and Glenda Erickson.” I think the sheer magnitude of that statement still hasn’t sunk in for myself — a billion trees!!

With all of the research we’ve done, we hope to launch a website this fall. We’ve been experimenting with different layouts and platforms, so we’ll be able to show you guys what we’ve been doing! If you want to see something more immediate, we have a facebook page! You can check us out here or by searching Central Minnesota Ecotourism.

Written by CST student Katie Hosch

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