Helmut Schmidt, Published July 25 2010
Fargo Park District celebrates centennial
The Park District is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its creation.
The party starts with a German folk fest today and ends Thursday with a celebration at the grandpappy of the city’s parks, Island Park.
“The 100-year anniversary is really something to celebrate,” said Park Board President Mary Johnson. “In 1910, Island Park was the only park, and now we have somewhere around 90 parks and 2,100 acres.”
“I think it’s very exciting. We have a tremendous park system. The facilities are top-notch,” Park Board Commissioner Ron Sorvaag said.
The land for Island Park – long considered the jewel among Fargo’s parks – was donated to the city in 1877 by Northern Pacific railroad, said John Bye, director of the Institute for Regional Studies at North Dakota State University.
Local historian David Danbom said the park – known for a time as Lincoln Park – really was an island during Red River floods, and much of it was a slough. The railroad thought it had no value, he said.
But it was valued by the city’s residents.
After the big fire of 1893, those left homeless camped in the park, he said.
The city created the Park District in November 1910. Island Park was officially turned over to the district in 1911, Bye said.
“In the first 50 or 60 years of the city, Island Park was where you’d have major city events. If important people came to town, that’s where they’d speak. If there were big parades, that’s where they’d end,” Danbom said.
Since its inception, the district has grown quickly and adapted to the times:
- Lindenwood Campground was established in 1921.
- Edgewood Golf Course opened in 1926. It cost 25 cents for three times around the five-hole course.
- A 140-foot-high ski jump was built in 1935 in what is Trollwood Park.
- In 1950, the lifeguard staff at Island Park put on a water show, with clown acts, synchronized swimming, diving and dancing.
- In 1957, the Park District had 22 seasonal recreational employees. Today, there are 419.
- The size of Fargo’s parks varies widely. The smallest park is Ole Tangen Park at .076 acres. The biggest developed park is Lindenwood, at 89.61 acres.
Carolyn Boutain, the district’s director of cultural activities, said Fargo residents always treated parks as necessary to good living.
“The parks have always been important. There’s been that commitment to having parks,” she said.
Fargo Park District events this week
The Fargo Park District is celebrating its 100 years of operation this week. All events are free and open to the public.
- Today: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., German Folk Festival at Rheault Farm. The fest includes a band from Germany, ethnic food, presentations and crafts.
- Monday: Family Fun Bike Ride, 6:30 p.m. at Great Northern Park, 425 Broadway.
- Tuesday: Pepsi Appreciation Day at Southwest Rec Pool; free pool admission; sessions are 1 to 5 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.
Family 5K Walk/Run, 6 p.m. at Courts Plus Fitness Center. No registration is required.
- Wednesday: Community Playground Carnival, noon to 7 p.m. at Rheault Farm. Admission is free. It is a mix of free and ticketed events (wristbands $8).
- Thursday: 100th Birthday Celebration Night, 5 to 11 p.m. at Island Park. There will be disc golf, crafts, inflatable games, face painting, balloons and ice cream treats while supplies last. The band Post Traumatic Funk Syndrome will play, and there will be a car show. There’s also free swimming at Island Park Pool. A movie starts at dusk, with free soda and popcorn.
- Medallion hunt through Thursday. Three medallions will be hidden in parks. Clues are online at www.fargoparks.com. Prizes awarded for medallions turned in to the district office.
- Geocaching hunt through Thursday. Participants who find the cache will have their names entered into a drawing for a prize. Clues and coordinates online at www.fargoparks.com.
Early years of the Fargo Park District
Here’s a peek at the early years of the Fargo Park District drawn from board meeting records.
- Nov. 1, 1910: Five board members were elected. The first president of the board was H.W. Gearey.
Discussion begins on buying land for a park in Oak Grove, and the board requested the city turn over all park property.
- Dec. 6, 1910. The board approves buying the first properties in the Oak Grove addition for $3,500.
- March 24, 1911: C.L. Meller is hired as superintendent of parks for $65 a month. He is later appointed as park policeman – without any extra pay.
- July 5, 1911: The board votes against allowing “dancing pavilions within the Parks of the City or within the four hundred feet limit thereof.”
- March 25, 1912: “Approval given for a committee of one to be appointed to act with Mr. Meller Superintendent of Parks in the purchase of a suitable horse, buggy and harness for the use of the Superintendent.”
- April 16, 1912: “Board requested to provide a suitable location and a proper pedestal for the Rollo Statue, a gift from France, to be brought to Fargo and unveiled July 12, 1912.”
- April 22, 1912: “Authorization given for the purchase of one Gray Mare for $200.00, a harness for $30.00 and a wagon.”
- May 7, 1912: “The Board moved that it is the sense of the Board that no general picnics shall be allowed in Island Park during the coming summer.”
- Oct. 1, 1912: “A committee appeared before the Board and presented a petition for the Board to purchase 123 acres, more or less, known as the Resser Farm for the sum of $22,500.00 … for public golf links.”
- June 9, 1913: “Superintendent authorized to expend a sum of money up to $25.00 in building a screen along the Red River for the purpose of providing a place for changing the cloths (sic.) of those going in swimming. Board to assume no oversight of the same.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583