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Sucker Creek expands border, Detroit Mountain making comeback

Sally Hausken shows off some of the wild flowers growing in Sucker Creek Preserve. Photo by Brian Basham

The parks of Detroit Lakes are expanding.

Sucker Creek Preserve is nearly doubling in size and the effort to bring back Detroit Mountain is certainly in full swing.

Sucker Creek Preserve

The borders of the Sucker Creek Preserve are expanding to include a 46-acre tract of land across the street from the park.

There are 10-15 springs that feed Sucker Creek on that 46-acre tract — a major reason park matriarch Sally Hausken of Detroit Lakes says it’s of “monumental importance” for the city of Detroit Lakes to own the land.

Hausken initially worked with the city to acquire the Sucker Creek Preserve. She was instrumental in helping to raise the $410,000 it took to purchase the land and build what has become a natural treasure within the city.

No tax dollars were used for the original preserve — some park dedication funds were used to build the boardwalk — and none will be used for the newest piece of land, Upstream Sucker Creek.

“When we look back, people will say this was a wonderful thing the city took initiative on. I don’t see a downfall,” Community Development Director Larry Remmen said.

The piece of property has been a part of the Hugh A. Long Family Trust for 45-plus years, and Hausken acquired it last year. She applied for and received a $495,000 Parks and Trails grant from the DNR to purchase the land for the city to add to the existing 64-acre preserve.

“I think we have a lot to offer and we need to capitalize on that,” she said of the city. “Here’s an opportunity for a municipality to own a source of fresh water. It’s real important for a city to have a fresh water source.”

Sucker Creek has long been designated as a trout stream.

“A chance to fish a trout stream in a city is a unique opportunity,” Hausken said.

Besides the importance of having springs on the property, the land is filled with rare and interesting wetlands and plants, she said.

Hausken said there are plants on the piece of property that she hasn’t identified and is working with the DNR to identify them. She’s talked to a regional ecologist out of Bemidji, and plans to talk to someone out of the St. Paul office to get the species identified.

Besides the purchase of the land, the money from the grant will also be used to develop a bog walk, trails and other facilities at Sucker Creek.

The land consists of 38 acres of wooded land, three acres of meadow and five acres of bog.

Detroit Mountain

When a group of people decided it would be a good idea to reopen the Detroit Mountain downhill ski area, they had no idea of the support they would find pouring in— or maybe they did.

They knew it was a solid idea. They knew that people would welcome the idea of a ski mountain, tubing, hiking, camping and mountain biking in Detroit Lakes.

But, after being turned down for a DNR Parks and Trail Grant, they found the financial support they needed as well.

“While we’re disappointed, it’s not something we’re surprised about,” Mark Fritz said earlier this year of not getting the grant.

Fritz is a part of the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area group and has been speaking on behalf of the group since the beginning.

The total cost of the Detroit Mountain project is estimated at $6.2 million. It would include not only reopening downhill skiing, but adding tubing, cross-country skiing, hiking, camping, bike trails, bathroom facilities and a new lodge.

Last fall, the city of Detroit Lakes approved contributing $300,000 to the project and also becoming the landowner if the project goes through.

As landowner, the city applied for the grants and there would be no property taxes or debt service, making the project doable.

Though the city would be the landowner, another entity — most likely DMRA, though the city has the final say on who — would manage the property, similar to how the Detroit Country Club and the Legion Campground work.

In the proposal, the financing for the Detroit Mountain project would have consisted of $2.1 mil-lion from the DNR’s park and trail grant, $500,000 from the Legacy fund, $989,000 in New Market Tax Credits and $2.3 from donations, which the DMRA had pledged to raise.

But, with Plan B now in place, Fritz said the group has taken the quest more regional and has gotten support throughout. They now have a significant amount of funds pledged to the project, and plan to raise the remaining monies left from the grant void.

“There’s a lot of options we may take. We’ve been really pleased with the response,” he said. “We still think the project has a ton of merit and is very important to our community.”

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.