BAXTER - Dean Makey has never owned his own forest land, but he now has a 60-acre forest in the middle of Baxter that he said he is very proud of.
Makey, a DNR forester for the past 27 years, was visibly stunned Friday after it was revealed that the Forestview Middle School School Forest has been renamed the Dean Makey School Forest. The school forest management committee, which is chaired by Brainerd School Board chair Kent Montgomery, voted to name the forest after Makey.
The new name was kept a secret from Makey, who is also on that committee, until he was asked by Montgomery to help him unveil the new school forest sign and its name at a dedication ceremony Friday.
"Boy, that's really something," a smiling Makey said after the sign was revealed. "I'm kind of embarrassed. It's really nice."
A surprised Dean Makey (right) helped unveil the new Forestview School Forest name and sign with Brainerd School Board chair Kent Montgomery, only then finding out that the school forest is named after him. Makey, a DNR forester, has spent many hours helping Forestview students plant seedlings and caring for the growing trees. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Makey, 50, has done a lot of work at the school forest, both with his job with the DNR and as a volunteer. He helped create trail signs and works frequently with Forestview sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders by planting tree seedlings in the school forest. He and the students so far have planted more than 2,700 seedlings covering about five acres in the school forest during the past three years. They plan to do much more in the years ahead. He and the seventh- and eighth-grade students also water the seedlings, provide protection for the seedlings against grazing deer and remove brush from around the seedlings. Frequently on the evenings and weekends, Makey will return to the school forest and water the seedlings on his own time. His daughter, Lauren, 13, a Forestview seventh-grader, often accompanies her dad in the evenings to water the trees.
Coincidentally, Lauren was one of four students who helped name Forestview Middle School.
Makey's wife, Jane, and son, Devin, 9, a Baxter third-grader, have also spent time helping in the school forest.
"He has willingly spent a lot of time here," Jane Makey said of her husband at the school forest. "It's a really nice honor for him."
"Dean really drove the development and planning for this," Montgomery said, of the school forest.
Makey said with a smile Friday that in addition to planting and watering trees in the school forest, he'll probably be in charge of taking care of the school forest sign with his name on it, too.
Carol Pasinen, Forestview fifth- and sixth-grade principal, said she believes all of Forestview's 2,100 students have been involved in some capacity in the school forest. Teachers have incorporated the outdoor learning environment into their classrooms. She said the school forest is used year round. This week students in track and cross-country ran on the 4.5 kilometer trails inside the forest.
Ken Perry (second from left), a Forestview Middle School instructor, walked with two students in his birding club and Amy Kay Kerber (second from right), school forest director with the Minnesota DNR School Forest program, through the Dean Makey School Forest at Forestview Middle School Friday. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"It's really a special place," said Pasinen.
Baxter Mayor Darrel Olson said the school board's decision to buy the land was courageous and also a tremendous opportunity. The city has partnered with the school district on projects, including the school forest, which enhances the community, said Olson. The forest trail system complements the city's own trail system. The new school forest parking lot, which has about 40 parking spaces, is across the street from the Southdale soccer fields and will provide overflow parking.
"This is a great day for all of us," said Olson. "We all win."
The school forest was made possible by the city of Baxter, the Brainerd School District and the DNR Forestry Division. Several businesses and organizations also helped develop the school forest, said Montgomery. They include Navillus Land Co., Crow Wing Power's Round Up grant program, Tree Trust, Minnesota Conservation Corps and The Nature Conservancy. Anderson Brothers paved the school forest parking lot this week. Wooden fencing is being installed around the parking lot, paid for as a memorial for the late Earl Montgomery, Kent's father. In the near future, a large trail map will be installed near the parking lot for visitors. Trails are marked within the school forest.
Amy Kay Kerber, school forest director for the DNR School Forest program, said there are 110 school forests in the state. She said the Forestview school forest is one of the newest in the state but also has quickly become one of the most widely used school forests because Forestview teachers are making it an integral part of their curriculum.
The Dean Makey School Forest is open to the community. During the winter, the trails are groomed by the Brainerd Nordic Ski Club for cross-country skiing. The school forest parking lot is located on Mountain Ash Drive across from the Southdale soccer fields.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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