I grew up in Golden Valley, a suburb of Minneapolis. Our neighborhood was somewhat undeveloped back then. We had a creek where we could catch minnows, frogs, and "crawdads", as we called them. I even caught a northern pike in the creek one time. That was a big deal for us kids! There were woods and meadows. I remember picking wild asparagus. Once in a while, we'd catch a glimpse of a deer or pheasant passing through. That was big, too!
I was involved in sports during my school years - football, basketball, and baseball. We'd take family vacations "up north" at different resorts, so I got a taste of the lakes area where I learned to row a boat and fish for panfish. One of my uncles had a bait store in Frazee. It was neat to see all the minnows in the big tanks he had. He'd take us fishing to his hot spots. I spent many summers riding the train to visit my Grandma in Detroit Lakes. We caught many sunfish from the boat docks, there.
That was the extent of my outdoor experiences during my childhood, until 10th grade. That summer, I participated in the federal Youth Conservation Corp. I spent a month on the Chippewa National Forest near Cass Lake. I stayed at a camp with other high school kids from around the state. During the day, we would work with U.S. Forest Service Rangers doing forestry and recreation projects. We cleaned campgrounds, brushed new hiking trails, and released pine plantations. In the evenings, we'd learn the educational aspects of our work. Then, we'd go out back to watch the bears visiting the dump. The camp was on a little lake stocked with muskies. We'd take the paddle boats out on the lake and watch the lunkers swim under the boats - what a thrill that was! My YCC experience turned me on the path to wanting to work with natural resources. I graduated from Hopkins Lindbergh High School.
On to college at the University of Minnesota. I spent my freshman year at UMD, then transferred to the main campus. I started studying biology. During my college summers, I traveled out west to Oregon and worked as a Range Aid. Our main duty was to put out wild fires, but did other range work, such as building barbed wire fence and cleaning springs for watering cattle. It was fun to look for arrowheads around the springs, most likely where Native Americans had camped and hunted. I loved the west. It was so different from where I grew up. I worked for the Bureau of Land Management all four of my college years. I graduated from the U of M with a Bachelors Degree in Forest Management.
A year after graduation in 1980, I moved to Brainerd when I was hired by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as a Forester. I spent my first years assisting Crow Wing County with the management of tax-forfeited lands. Those early years were the ones when I really learned to be a Forester. I transferred to the DNR's Area Forestry Office in Brainerd and worked there for the rest of my DNR career, for over 33 years. Most of those years were spent assisting private forest landowners with the management of their own forest lands. I also spent time managing State lands, fighting wild fires, enforcing burning laws, and spending a good deal of time with community outreach, educating youth and the public about forestry and wild fire prevention.
In 2004, when Forestview Middle School was being built, I was asked to serve on the FMS Forest Management Committee. This committee recommended to reserve a portion of the school district's forest land where the school was being built and dedicate it as "School Forest". The Brainerd School Board agreed and set aside 60 acres for this purpose. The School Forest was formally dedicated in 2007, and to my surprise, it was named the "Dean Makey School Forest."
Dean retired from the DNR in 2013, but keeps very busy with his retirement activities. He volunteers at Forestview Middle School with indoor and outdoor classroom projects, such as Forestry Days for the 5th graders. Dean advises and helps coordinate student and teacher work projects on the forest, such as tree planting, release work, and deer browse protection. In his retirement, you might even see him substitute teaching at Forestview. In the springtime, you will find Dean umpiring girl's softball at the middle school level and recreational youth softball and baseball during the summer. Dean is still keeping his hands in the Forestry community, by advising forest landowners through private forestry associations he is involved with. Finally, Dean still works as a forestry consultant in his own private business.
You might run into Dean on the trails of this school forest, looking after the trees, making sure they are healthy and are being taken care of. He tells his two children, Lauren and Devin, "After I'm gone, you guys will have to take care of my sign!" Dean loves spending time at his forest!