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Detroit Mountain gets more room to play: $1.2 million Legacy grant makes land acquisition, new projects possible

Detroit Mountain has been awarded a Legacy grant of more than $1.2 million for land acquisition and improvement projects. Marie Johnson / Tribune1 / 3
A conceptual drawing of what the new playground area could look like at Detroit Mountain. The design is still only in the beginning stages, but if all goes well, construction will be complete by next spring. Drawing by Land Elements of Fargo2 / 3
A conceptual drawing of what the new treehouse might look like at Detroit Mountain. Made mostly of natural elements, it will likely incorporate observation decks and bridges, and will function as a warming house of sorts in the winter. Drawing by Land Elements of Fargo3 / 3

Detroit Mountain Recreation Area is expanding its footprint and adding some fun new features thanks to a $1.2 million grant from the state's Legacy fund.

The mountain's leadership has already used the grant dollars to acquire nearly 150 additional acres for the property, and plans are underway to develop a treehouse and playground area, create some new bike trails, add paving and landscaping around the tubing hill, and make other improvements around the grounds, all within the next year or so.

The grant award was officially announced this past December, following final approval by the Minnesota DNR. Larry Remmen, Detroit Lakes' community development director, submitted the grant application back in 2016. The application included a master plan for Detroit Mountain, which laid out the specific projects the grant funds will be used for.

The Legacy funds awarded by the state total $1,246,000. Detroit Mountain pledged a matching grant contribution of $250,000, and the City of Detroit Lakes pledged another $100,000, bringing the grand total for the projects to $1,596,000.

Of that, Remmen said, $687,000 was already used in January to purchase 147 acres of land adjoining Detroit Mountain's existing property. (That grows the recreation area's footprint significantly, from its original 200 acres to 347 acres.) Another $314,000 will be spent on trail development, $260,000 on the construction of the treehouse and playground, $165,000 for paving and landscaping around the tubing hill, $140,000 for design, engineering and administrative work, and $30,000 for some additional signage.

"We're very excited about the improvements that are going to be made," he said.

Jeff Staley, general manager at Detroit Mountain, elaborated on the plans. He said the newly acquired acreage lies on the west end of Detroit Mountain's original property. Some of that land was already being leased by the mountain and has some mountain bike trails on it now, "but we will now further develop it with what we consider single-track mountain bike trails," he said. Plans call for the addition of another five miles of single-track trails, as well as two to three new downhill, or "gravity" trails.

The treehouse and playground will both be natural-material, four-season structures. The treehouse will be located off the edge of the beginner ski hill so kids can ski right up to it in the winter; it'll be connected to the playground—probably via a swinging bridge—which will sit in the middle of the bike skills park.

Though the structures are still only in the beginning stages of design, Staley expects they'll incorporate a lot of natural elements and be exploratory in nature, with observation decks, ladder bridges, a climbing wall and possibly a slide. Detroit Mountain is working with Land Elements of Fargo on the design.

These projects, along with the paving and landscaping projects planned for the tubing hill area, will be going out for bid soon, and with any luck will all be completed by next spring.

"It's a process that is going to take a little bit," said Staley. "We have to get through all the requirements of the state—for example, we have to get an archeological study on any areas of earth we'll be disturbing... We're taking it as it comes. We're following all the requirements and making sure that it's done right."

Staley said he's feeling "great" about Detroit Mountain securing the grant funds. Without the Legacy dollars, he said, many of these projects would not be financially feasible, at least not within the foreseeable future. And "there's no way we would have been able to acquire 147 acres without the grant."

"For Detroit Lakes to be able to promote a nearly 350-acre recreation area just 2.5 miles from downtown is a great thing," he added. "Not many cities have anything like that."

He's hoping this grant award is just the first of more to come for Detroit Mountain. Staley said the leadership's long-term "wish list" for the mountain includes a lighted Nordic ski loop, enhanced snowmaking capabilities and lift improvements, even more land acquisition, and additional bike trails.

Detroit Mountain Recreation Area opened in November 2014 and was designated as a Regional Park by the Greater Minnesota Parks and Trails Commission in 2015.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Detroit Lakes Tribune in November 2017 after several years of writing and editing at the Perham Focus. She lives in rural Frazee with her husband, Dan, their young son and daughter, and their yellow Lab.

(218) 844-1452
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