NISC employee Jamie Wetsch was named the 2013 North Dakota Trail Worker of the Year following his work developing, creating and maintaining the “Otter Creek Trail,” an 8.9-mile bike trail located in the Harmon Lake Recreational Area outside of Mandan, N.D.
“I always say my motivations were partially selfish, because being an avid mountain biker, having a trail five minutes from your house is a bonus,” Wetsch said. “So, that’s kind of what got me interested in it.”
While Wetsch likes to humbly admit that the prospect of having a new trail close to home was exciting to him, it wasn’t the main motivating factor behind his work. He’d spent time on a number of trails around the area, performing maintenance, which includes everything from re-routing a trail to simply taking care of weeds.
“There’s a crew of regulars that do trail maintenance on the existing trails around, so I’ve done much smaller-scale projects, but this was the first time I’ve ever started with a blank slate,” Wetsch said.
For the past six years, Wetsch has spent his weekdays at NISC, serving as a programmer in end-user billing for telecom, while putting in night and weekend work developing and maintaining the Otter Creek Trail.
The project began with Wetsch and his crew looking at aerial maps of the area where the Morton County Water Resource District was working on a new recreation area. After that, Wetsch mounted an ATV and, working with a partner that specialized in GIS mapping and guidelines from the International Mountain Bike Association, hit the trail to physically determine the layout.
“We knew our goal was views of the lake,” Wetsch said. “It kind of ends up being a big game of connect-the-dots. On your first pass through the place, you’re looking for points of interest, like great views or cool rock formations, and we’ll flag that on the GPS. So, when we know the places we want to get people to, or keep people away from, we kind of play connect the dots after that. What’s the best way to get from this point to that point?”
Once the mapping was done, Wetsch and his crew helped the Morton County Water Resource District find the best group of contractors for the job and supervised the building of the trail, which they continue to maintain and promote today.
Wetsch was recognized for his work on the project not only for his work in developing and supervising the construction of a brand new bike trail, but also for his continued promotion of it, helping make it one of Mandan’s most popular paths for bikers.
“Nobody ever does this stuff in hopes of winning an award for anything, but in the end it’s nice to be recognized in the way that people like it,” Wetsch said. “That’s the main thing. You can build it and have all the personal satisfaction you want, but the best part is that the general public likes it and enjoys it.”