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New operations manager for Pokegama Dam Recreation Area settles in

Published Jan. 14, 2015
Jeff Cook, is the operations manager for the Pokegama Dam and Winnibigoshish Lake recreation areas.

Jeff Cook, is the operations manager for the Pokegama Dam and Winnibigoshish Lake recreation areas.

Ben Watson, left, St. Paul District public affairs, talks with Jeff Cook, operations manager for Pokegama Dam Recreation Area and Winnibigoshish Lake, during a recent site visit.

Ben Watson, left, St. Paul District public affairs, talks with Jeff Cook, operations manager for Pokegama Dam Recreation Area and Winnibigoshish Lake, during a recent site visit.

Jeff Cook always knew he wanted to be a park ranger. From his early childhood growing up in Eagan, Minnesota, Cook encountered park rangers at the Autobahn Center in Sandstone, Minnesota, giving a presentation about the outdoors for kids. From that point on, he knew he wanted to do what park rangers do -- interact with the public, teach people about being good stewards of the environment and be involved in all the outdoor activities that Minnesota has to offer year around.

Cook graduated from the University of Minnesota, Crookston, where he earned his bachelor's degree in natural resource management. He got his start in the Corps as a seasonal hire, working at the district’s recreation area in Crosslake, Minnesota, for two seasons and then one season in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, working at the district’s Pokegama Dam and Recreation Site. With this experience, Cook gained a full time position with the Corps in Yankton, South Dakota.

While there, Cook honed his skills in interacting with the public, stressing safety on the water and managing an abnormal flood season during the 2011 Missouri River floods. Cook described his flood fight in Yankton by stating “We had fast run off of mountain snow and more rain in 4-5 weeks then we get all year.” These were the conditions that greeted Cook in Yankton and allowed him to gain invaluable experience with the Corps.

Now, as the new operations manager at Pokegama since June of this last year, Cook is eager to bring his passion for the outdoors and recreation to this sought after winter and summer vacation campground nestled just outside of Grand Rapids. Taking a tour of the recreation area, Cook point’s out the Pokegama Dam, 19 campsites and two tent sites that he works and maintains. The park also boasts new park benches and nearby nature trails that are the result of coordination with local Boy Scout volunteers who generously donated their time in order to earn their coveted Eagle Scout badge.