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History of Benton Retriever Grounds 1989- 2023

Field trialers in the Twin Cities area in the late 1980s became increasingly concerned about the long-term availability of Kelly Farms near Marine-on-St. Croix as a place to train and run trials. Other nearby grounds had become unavailable or prohibitively expensive to rent, and the spreading suburban housing growth at that time near Kelly Farms made development there seem inevitable.

Several members of the three active retriever clubs in the area—Hennepin County Amateur Retriever Club, Minnesota Field Trial Assn. and Gopher State Retriever Club—began looking for alternatives. Hennepin County and Gopher State held only informal trials at the time, while MFTA held two licensed trials annually.

The primary goal of the three clubs was to find affordable, usable land for trials and training far enough away from the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan to avoid future development encroachment, while still staying close enough to be within a reasonable driving distance for most trainers and trialers. A quick survey of the three clubs’ membership rosters showed that approximately two-thirds of these members lived in roughly the northern half of the metro area. So we began concentrating on land north of the metro area.

Becky Vien, a real estate agent and the wife of Tim Vien, one of HCARC’s members, mentioned that a 120-acre parcel of land was available along Hwy. 95, near Santiago and Glendorado, MN. Lathrop Paint Supply owned the land and had been using it as hunting area for employees and customers. The price tag: $36,500. Paul and Jackie Shidla, friends of the Viens, quickly made the down payment of $5,400.00 for HCARC. HCARC purchased the property on March 31, 1989, reimbursing the Shidlas for their down payment of $5,400 and signing a contract for deed calling for annual installments of $7,929.40 with no prepayment penalty. In a memorandum of understanding signed by the three clubs in late 1989 and effective Jan. 1, 1990, HCARC initially retained title to the property under the purchase agreement to simplify the transfer of title from Lathrop Paint Supply Co. to Benton Retriever Grounds, Inc.

BRG directors in October 1989 elected interim officers: Rick Van Bergen, chairman;   Darrell Frisbie, president; Jeff Zlonis, vice president; Bob Wolfe, secretary; Don DeZurik, treasurer; Paul Shidla, Bob Beyer, Dan Morin and Ralph Dooley, other board members.

The three clubs formed Benton Retriever Grounds, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation, on Feb. 26, 1990. Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws stated that “The purpose of this corporation is to: Acquire, develop, maintain and operate a facility with natural habitat for the following purposes: (1) train retriever dogs to recover shot birds in the hunting field,  thereby conserving game; (2) conduct field trials to test the capability of trained retrievers, and encourage their use by hunters; (3) provide sanctuary for wild life; (4) provide for nature study and other outdoor recreation.” The incorporators were Robert Wolfe,  North Oaks, Jeff Zlonis, Stillwater, and Don DeZurik, Plymouth, MN. Directors (3 from each shareholder club) were: Rick Van Bergen, Bob Beyer and Bob Wolfe (MFTA); Darrell Frisbie, Don DeZurik and Paul Shidla (HCARC), and Ralph Dooley, Zeff Zlonis and Dan Morin (Gopher State). Annual meetings are to be held in May of each year to elect officers and board members.

Each shareholder club can buy non-voting treasury shares for capital contributions at the rate of one share per $100.00. These capital contributions would be used to finance capital improvements to the grounds. Operating costs were to be paid from revenues from user fees, sale of food and beverages, etc.

BRG was incorporated by the State of Minnesota on March 7, 1990.

Now began the hard work: Raising money to pay for the land plus to develop it for training and trials.


Fund Raising:

The initial fund-raising effort by HCARC, begun early in 1989, was called “Buy-an-Acre,” the suggestion of Tom Olson, a club member. This was aimed at securing donations or pledges of $300 (the approximate price per acre paid for the tract) from field trialers, past and present, mostly in the Twin Cities area. The goal was to raise the $36,000 price tag for the land. The response throughout late 1989 and 1990 was gratifying, with approximately $28,000 donated or pledged by more than 75 individuals and by 12 state retriever clubs and organizations. In October 1989, MFTA voted to transfer approximately $15,000 to BRG to assist in retiring the land debt. Gopher State Retriever Club sponsored annual pheasant hunts at Wild Wings Game Farm in 1991-1994 to raise funds for BRG.

Donors to HCARC ‘Buy-an-Acre’ Fund Drive, 1989-90 (approximately $23K Raised)

Wayne & Jacquie Anderson
Hugh Armstrong
Armstrong Kennels
Fred & Sharon Atkinson
Jeff Barbour
Jim & Ellen Benson
Jeff Bergeron
Earl Blocher
Dick Borden
Norm Bowen
Mike Buselmeier
Dave Carlson
Reg Chambers
Earl Christianson
Paul Cote
Bob Cusick
Ward Denaway
Tony Despanas
Don DeZurik
Jim Dresen
Ross Eggestein
Don Englin
Don Erickson
Wayne & Betty Erickson
William Erickson
Darrell & V Frisbie
In memory of Don Fruen
Lee Gehrke
In memory of Jack Haas
Jack Hansen
Dan Hills
Frank & Peggy Hinton in memory of
Hank & Betty Christian
Jerry Hoefler
Fred Kampo
Steve Karbo
Frank Klatt


Tom Koteles

Tom Lane

Ted Langford

Bob Lindgren

Leonard Madson

Lawrence Martens
Bob Matlin
Ann Mortenson
Greg Murtha
Dr. Dennis Nelson
Jim & Joanne O’Connor
Conrad Olsen
Tom Olson
Steve Ortlip
Herb & Bev Parker
Carl Pearson
Joe Prifrel
Reo-Raj Kennels (Jim & Jane Kappes)
Roger Reopelle
Caroline Rogers
Jon Schmoeckel
Armond Schneider
Lowell Schwab
Les Scottson
Paul & Jackie Shidla
Jim Stang
Joel Stang
Arlen Stensby
Roger Tennyson
Mike Theissen
Rick Van Bergen
Jim Wilson
Charlie & Marilyn Wright
Jim Wyatt
Richard Zackow
Jeff Zlonis


Duluth Retriever Club
Gopher State Retriever Club
Headwaters Retriever Club
Hennepin County Amateur Retriever Club
Horowitz, Inc.
Minnesota Federation of Field Trial Clubs
Minnesota Retriever Advisory Council
Minnesota Valley Retriever Assn.
Northern Flight Hunting Retriever Assn.
Northwest Iowa Retriever Club
Science Diet/World Retriever Festival
Tri-State Hunting Dog Assn.


Video Fund Raiser

The second major fund-raising project involved a two-day training seminar sponsored by HCARC and put on by Jim Kappes of Reo Raj Kennels and Wayne and Bruce Curtis, both of whom had worked for Jim prior to establishing their own professional training businesses. Held Sept. 22-23, 1990, at Darrell Frisbie’s home grounds, the seminar attracted 160 participants, who were charged $45 each or $75 for couples. The club netted $8,000 after expenses. Mr. Kappes passed away from cancer that following December. .

 The seminar was video-taped by club members George Amundson and Rick Van Bergen, and by Theresa Doubek of Central Minnesota Retriever Club. After checking on the cost of commercially producing the seminar on tape, we decided to do it ourselves because we had no idea of how many sets of tapes we could sell. Sets of six edited two-hour tapes were marketed for $79.95 to seminar participants and $98.85 to non-participants. Jacquie Anderson produced the sets of tapes, using several video recorders purchased by the club and borrowed from club members. Over the next 10 years, approximately 550 sets of tapes were sold across the country, most of them within the first year after the seminar. The only costs were the video recorders, blank tapes and shipping costs. All seminar proceeds went to BRG.


 Ownership Restructuring: Over the years, Gopher State Retriever Club has ceased to be an active club, and has not been able to provide funds to help cover BRG operating costs. Thus, it was determined that BRG needed to restructure its governing board to reflect that ownership now is made up of two shareholders, HCARC and MFTA. The two clubs share in financing annual operational costs. The BRG bylaws were amended late in 2008 to change the board structure to include four members each from the two clubs, for a total of eight board members. Each shareholder club voted to accept the bylaw amendments. The current board: Rick Van Bergen, president; Yvonne Hays, secretary; Mark Belford, treasurer. Board members: MFTA: Larry Halvorson, Rick Van Bergen, Yvonne Hays and Gary Metzger. HCARC: Mark Belford, Wayne Anderson, Mitch Mills and Ray Amundson. .

2009-2010: Several years of relatively dry weather had severely impacted the water depth of our ponds, particularly in late summer. The decision was made in 2009 to drill a well on the main grounds. A local well driller was contracted and found sufficient water, at less than 50 ft., which also was potable. Pipe was laid from the well to both the west end pond and the main ponds to the east in October 2009. Testing in the spring of 2010 found the system working well.  A separate faucet atop the well provides water for campers and other uses at the parking lot/campground. Also in 2010, fencing was completed along the east boundary of the main grounds.

2010-2011: A major improvement project on the north grounds was begun in 2010 and completed in 2011. The ditch on the north side of the parcel was widened, meandered and sloped to help avoid potential dog injuries and provide new training/trial challenges. The current ponds were widened and expanded. Finally, a road system was installed from the west gate south and then east to the south mound. Fill from digging the ditch and ponds was used as a road base and to build several new mounds.

2012: A bridge consisting of a large culvert topped by fill was constructed over the ditch leading into the north grounds, allowing traffic to move to the east from just inside the west gate. This should help minimizing vehicle parking along the gravel road during trials, always a safety factor as well as an irritant for local traffic, especially farmers with large farm equipment.

Also, a 40 ft. long used shipping container was purchased to store all club equipment which until now had been stored in a building in Glendorado. It is on the parking lot at the main grounds and has been wired for lights and electrical outlets.  The new storage unit is much handier for club events, and will pay for itself in a few years from savings from no longer paying rental on the Glendorado facility.

2013: The storage unit purchased in 2012 has been finished, with shelves installed and the interior reorganized for most efficient use for all equipment and refrigeration/freezer units. The exterior of the unit has been painted.

The tractor/equipment shed has had sidewalls added to help protect equipment from weather. Stored inside the shed are two tractors, three mowers and our gopher poison machine.

2014: Officers/Board Members: Wayne Anderson, president; Rick Van Bergen, vice president; Yvonne Hays, secretary; Mark Belford, treasurer. Board members: MFTA: Larry Halvorson, Rick Van Bergen, Yvonne Hays and Gary Metzger. HCARC: Mark Belford, Wayne Anderson, Wayne Skochenski and Ray Amundson.        

2014 - 2015 Upgrades: A new well was installed on the north grounds in the spring of 2014. The ponds on the north grounds do not retain water during the summer/fall seasons, making water access impossible for fall trials/training. Positioning for electric power box and a well were established during the fall of 2013. The well is now operational.  

Also, the first phase of a tree/brush clearing project on both grounds was completed in the spring of 2015. This has opened new training and testing opportunities on both grounds.

Finally, a building donated by Keith Hass was reconstructed to provide a “cook shack,” where food preparation and distribution is in a separate area from the storage cube, making for more efficiency in handling birds and distributing equipment during events.

2015: Officers/Board Members: Keith Hass, president; Rick Van Bergen, vice president; Yvonne Hays, secretary; Mark Belford, treasurer. MFTA: Rick Van Bergen, Yvonne Hays, Keith Hass, Bob Walker. HCARC: Mark Belford, Ray Amundson, Wayne Skochenski, Robbie Knutson.

2016 New Web Site: was developed and posted during 2016. Doug Warren, Up North Outdoors, Howard Lake, MN website developer, who specializes in outdoors-oriented websites, designed the BRG website. We provide updates to keep the BRG website current.

2017 - 2019:

New and replacement fencing projects on both grounds, a new approach to the main grounds from Hwy. 95 on the northeast corner of the property, a refrigerated dead bird cooler and a new AED defibrillator were the main accomplishments.

Fencing: Fencing along north side of north grounds was replaced. On the main grounds, fencing was replaced in conjunction with closing the existing approach and gate midway along Hwy. 95 and the new approach and gate were established at the northeast corner. The changes in approaches/gates allows for better use of the main grounds during events.

Bird cooler: BRG President Keith Hass found a used refrigerated cooler which was redesigned to provide a much-improved system for cooling down dead birds during the summer events.

Defibrillator: BRG purchased an AED defibrillator. It is stored in the cook shack for quick access when/if needed

Also, electric outlet posts in the camper area were updated.

2020 New Equipment Shed

New Equipment Shed - A new 30 by 48 ft. storage shed for  equipment was constructed on the Main Grounds. 

The canopy-style structure previously used was inadequate as more equipment was purchased over the years. This structure was moved to the picnic area near the cook shack area for use during inclement weather.

North Grounds Improvements - The North South Ditch was graded 4:1 to make it safer for training. Seeding and additional ground cover improvements to occur in spring of 2021.

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