Meeting in the basement of the Big Lake Municipal Liquor Store, September 3, 1941, a group of men and women living in Sherburne County came together and organized the Sherburne County Conservation Club. For the next forty-one years they met to develop and discuss plans for very necessary projects, to aid conservation in Sherburne County.
Because of drought, over-farming and several natural disasters, land in Sherburne County in the 1930s rapidly deteriorated. Zimmerman was known as the poison ivy capitol of the world. Sandstorms were so common, “there were days when Highway 10 was closed,” club member Art Nelson remembered.
An early project for the club called for tree plantings to develop wind breaks and stop the soil erosion. Over the years, the club estimates millions of trees were planted in Sherburne County as part of the Conservation Club program.
|Construction of a cement dam on Mud Lake, circa 1955, by|
the Sherburne County Conservation Club volunteers
Other projects in the early years included developing fish rearing ponds to raise and transplant pike into county lakes. The club also built a dam on Mud Lake, also known as Orrock Lake, to promote wild rice development. The club also experimented with Pheasant propagation and wild turkey introduction. Both of these projects appeared less than successful because of the lack of understanding on how to raise pheasants and turkeys. The wild turkeys originated from Texas. The birds apparently could not adapt to the changing weather extremes.
In the 1960s and 70s, the state and federal governments superseded the plans of the Sherburne County conservation Club. By 1974, the club ended their annual improvement projects. In 1982, the club quietly disbanded. At times their activities generated some controversy, yet, the goals of the group enhanced life in Sherburne County until a time when the government took an interest. Starting with a meeting in the basement of a liquor store, county residents identified a need and moved to improve their community. Not always successful in their efforts, their early attempts mark an important chapter in Sherburne County development and conservation.