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Lake County honors local woodsman

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Ken Vogel

Mike Maki passed away a year ago, but his legacy remains in the forests of the Lake County.

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The Silver Bay man succumbed to esophageal cancer on March 6, and shortly after his death the Lake County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution recognizing him for his outstanding service in maintaining the area’s abundant resources. The resolution calls attention to Maki’s diligence, citing his work planting nearly a million trees throughout the county, often in difficult areas where other tree planters would not work.

“I watched as Mike was planting along the Stewart Lake Road. … He had a rhythm just like a machine,” Lake County Forester Tom Bodell said. “I estimated (he) could plant about 1500 trees per day. He was a kind gentleman, and you did not need to supervise him much because he always did such good work.”

Planting trees is one of the forestry department’s daily tasks as they work to ensure the county’s natural resources will continue to provide economic security and aesthetic value for generations to come.

According to Deputy Land Commissioner Bill Nixon, Maki probably planted between 800,000 and 900,000 trees in Lake County, not including any private-party contracts.

“He was fun, hardworking and down to earth. How do you replace that?” Nixon said.

When Maki was away from his beloved outdoors, he spent time with his family and friends. His parents, Marvin and Irene, raised Mike and his brothers Dan and Andy in Two Harbors, where Marvin served as land commissioner.

“Mike loved the outdoors early on. The boys were my partners for exploring and fishing this country,” Marvin Maki said.

Irene Maki recalls the men being very good fishermen — which meant plenty of work in the kitchen for her.

“They would catch them, and I would cook them. I cooked a lot of fish,” she said.

Another of Maki’s passions was harvesting balsam boughs for Christmas wreaths. According to Curt Gubrud, Maki’s bough picking partner, Mike harvested balsam boughs for more than 20 years. Gubrud partnered with Maki during the last five years, producing an average of more than 60 tons of boughs per year.

“Mike was always good for about 17 tons or one semi truckload alone,” Gubrud said. “He would collect them in 90-pound bales. He was a strong, hardworking man. When Mike went to work he worked hard, but when it was time to go fishing he went fishing.”

Gubrud also witnessed a more introspective side of Maki.

“Mike had a quiet way to seek out his own spirituality through his love of nature,” he said.

Now, Maki’s love of nature will live on thanks to the board’s proclamation. A 5-and-a-half acre plantation, planted by Maki in 1992, will be named the Mike Maki Memorial Plantation. A sign marking the memorial plantation will be put in place this spring. The plantation is on the east side of County Road 2 across from Boomers Road.

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