Club and Repeater History

Detroit Lakes Amateur Radio Club History

The Detroit Lakes Amateur Radio Club (DLARC) began as informal meetings of area hams.  The actual beginning is hard to pin down but many place the late 1950’s as the most likely start of these informal meetings.  No written records are available of these early meetings but it is thought they took place at local restaurants or the homes of area hams.

We do know that in 1975, Robert John, WBØFVL, of Detroit Lakes, assembled a 2-meter repeater.  By profession Mr. John was a repairman for Motorola communications equipment.  This was his private repeater and, in 1977, the repeater was at home in the Becker County Sheriff’s radio shack with a vertical antenna on top of a wooden pole.  Gordon Fevig WØQQK climbed the pole and installed the antenna.  Others using the repeater were Elwood Orner WBØLTG, Eugene Krause KØRJ and Carl Mann WØEMZ.  Later, Robert John was thinking about moving to Florida so he communicated with several area hams that agreed to form a repeater club in the Detroit Lakes area for the purpose of maintaining the repeater.  Mr. John was then granted life membership in the Detroit Lakes Amateur Radio Club.  

At one point, the repeater site was moved do a different communication shack, still owned by Becker County, and a new repeater, a Yaesu Vertex VXR7000, was installed alongside the existing duplexer on Tower Road until that site was torn down.  At that time, the repeater was moved to the home of a local Ham Operator, Derek Oldenburger, K9FQO, and a new repeater was installed with the old unit as a backup.  In the summer of 2023, it was relocated to one of the lift shacks at the top of Detroit Mountain. 

M.J. Buchhop, KCØVM, a Lutheran Pastor in Detroit Lakes, did much of the club's organizational work.  Bill Wilson, KØCDJ, developed a club constitution. In communication with the ARRL, it was discovered that club licenses were no longer issued.  Carl Mann, WØEMZ, became the repeater control operator and his call sign was used on the repeater until his death.  Since then, the repeater call has been that of Vern Van Wey, NØMVN.  In 1999 an application for a club call sign was made and the call sign of Carl Mann, WØEMZ was obtained.  Carl Mann was also granted life membership in the Detroit Lakes Amateur Radio Club.

Today, the Detroit Lakes Amateur Radio Club (DLARC) is an affiliate member club of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) which is a national organization that advocates for amateur radio interests and promotes amateur radio in the United States.

The DLARC club meets the 3rd Saturday of every month for a breakfast meeting at 9:00 AM at the Clubhouse Hotel (formerly the Holiday Inn).  All area hams and visitors are welcome.  On Sunday night at 8:00 PM a club net is held on the WØEMZ repeater (147.195 MHz).  All area hams and/or visitors are welcome to check in.

Relocation of the Repeater in 2023

In March of 2023, Kelcey Klemm (City Administrator) arranged a meeting between the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area (DMRA) staff and the DLARC officers to start the discussion about moving the repeater to the mountain.  The DMRA staff was very open to the idea and Mark Knutson expressed support for Amateur Radio during that meeting.  Present were:

In June of 2023, after the snow cleared and things dried up, the DLARC officers and the DMRA staff met again, this time heading up to the mountain to determine the location of the repeater.  We started looking at the tower and building that are located at the top of the mountain, but determined it would be better to use the west ski lift shack as it remains accessible all winter long and power was already present in the shack.  Power would have to be reinstalled in the tower shack to even get started and that building gets buried in snow during the winter.

In July of 2023, several DLARC members completed the prep and installation work and moved the repeater to the mountain.  It was officially turned up at the new location early in the afternoon of Thursday, July 13th, 2023 and has been active at that site since.  There have been a few short maintenance trips to the mountain to service the repeater and re-tune it before Winter and to ensure optimal operations at the new location.

In October of 2023, DLARC and DMRA staff met at Detroit Mountain in the lodge to formally dedicate the repeater site.  The club installed a plaque in honor of Mark Knutson, the DMRA staff, and the hams who primarily contributed to it's relocation.

The repeater is primarily meant to assist the community in the event of an emergency and has tertiary uses including general Amateur Radio Operations, severe weather reporting, community event support, and community education.

The repeater cabinet after the dedication plaque was added on October 26th, 2023.  Note the original duplexer still installed in the rack!

Dedication Plaque

This dedication plaque was added to the repeater cabinet on October 26th, 2023 to recognize and remeber all who contributed to the successful move of the W0EMZ repeater.

Informational Plaque

This plaque was added so anyone with questions or needing assistance could easily find out who to reach at the club.  The club will keep the repeater trustee contact information up to date on this website.

A few facts about the repeater

View of Detroit Lakes looking west at the repeater antenna from the top of Detroit Mountain.

The repeater, prior to the move, had a 15-20 mile average range of coverage.  This varied significantly with terrain, weather, solar activity, etc.

The repeater, after the move to Detroit Mountain Recreation Area, commonly reaches the Fargo/Moorhead area, Fergus Falls, Carlos, Wadena, Brainerd, and nearly all the way to Hillsboro, ND.

The current elevation of the repeater is 1,611 feet above sea level and the antenna is about 35' above the peak of the mountain.  This is approx. 275 feet higher than its previous location.

The Detroit Mountain Recreation Area (DMRA) staff has been incredibly supportive of this project and their contribution to Amateur Radio for both public safety and general use is invaluable the Detroit Lakes Amateur Radio Club (DLARC) and to all ham operators in this region.