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A good start for Detroit Mountain effort

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” —Matthew 17:20, New Living Translation Bible.

Talk about moving a mountain. Organizers with the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area, Inc. project are happy with the progress they’ve made towards creating a regional park and restoring the former downhill ski area.

The organization has completed the purchase of the 200-acre Detroit Mountain ski area site, and it has launched a private capital campaign as a first step towards raising money for the regional park.

“We’ve been surprised at some of the people in the area that have stepped up,” said organizer Mark Fritz. “They have fond memories of skiing at the mountain as young people.” Donors have been coming not just from Detroit Lakes, but places like Perham and Fargo-Moorhead, he said.

The common denominator seems to be people with memories of skiing at Detroit Mountain as young people — and the deep desire to give that gift to young people of today and into the future.

“This is the first step in the process, and we’re very encouraged by the support and enthusiasm we’ve encountered on our (one-on-one) visits,” said Fritz.

“So much so that we were confident in getting the land secured,” added organizer Shelly Stowman. “We have been inundated with stories of people as they were growing up skiing on Detroit Mountain, and it’s those same people that are envisioning this project and see the need.”

Detroit Mountain was open from 1958 to 2004, Fritz said, “and it blows me away how many people outside of Detroit Lakes have spent significant amount of time there. It was a great place.”

Organizers have high hopes for the year-round park.

“With a population of over 360,000 people within 60 miles, use is expected to be significant,” the group says in a feasibility report released last year.

The site will work well for downhill skiing, snowboarding, tubing and cross-country skiing in the wintertime.

Other seasons, the park will be open for camping, hiking, biking and sightseeing, “with a panoramic view from the top of Detroit Mountain.”

A specially-designed mountain bike area is expected to be very popular, along with an area that combines elements of a skateboard park with snowboarding, allowing enthusiasts to do tricks like riding rails and flying over ramps.

The winter downhill operations are expected to bring in most of the revenue, according to the feasibility report.

To get to that point, major infrastructure improvements are needed, including five new ski lifts, a new 9,500-square-foot lodge, as well as snowplows and grooming equipment.

The group’s fundraising campaign is designed to raise enough cash to cover all costs, allowing the park to open and operate without a heavy initial debt load.

With city ownership, property taxes will not have to be paid. That will help revenues cover expenses, allowing the operation to cash-flow without local government subsidies.

The new park is a win-win-win for the community, because it benefits kids, community health and economic development, Fritz said.

“Kids love these ride centers and trail systems,” he said. “They are exercising and not even knowing it. It teaches kids and others healthy lifestyle activities.”

Organizers are expected to make a major announcement about launching the public phase of the capital campaign in the next few weeks.