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Erik Burgess, Published September 06 2012

Fargo officials want greater access to recreational areas

FARGO – Tennis courts, walking tracks and other recreational areas often found at schools here are typically locked up and inaccessible by the time the bell rings at the end of the day.

This is something local officials want to change.

City commissioners and school and park board officials contemplated possibilities to increase general public access to recreational facilities in a joint meeting Thursday evening.

“There’s been a lot of fencing, a lot of locked-up activities, a lot of locked-up grounds,” City Commissioner Brad Wimmer said.

The three entities will now be looking at ways to improve access to existing area recreational spaces, some of them in schools, Wimmer said.

The push is in response to the city’s 2030 comprehensive plan, Wimmer said, which discovered that residents want to be more active and are looking for shared spaces to utilize in their neighborhoods.

“There are people that don’t have the ability to drive to a tennis court. They want to walk,” Wimmer said, and opening up school facilities would make that easier.

Fargo was designated a national “Playful City” earlier this year, and Commissioner Mike Williams said this makes the city eligible for “extra money” that could pay for the costs of keeping spaces open for longer hours.

Officials in attendance agreed that more open spaces would help Fargo’s image.

“It really does make our city more attractive to have all these opportunities to be active and to be healthy,” said Kris Wallman, a school board member.

The three entities also discussed the new gymnasium to be built at Centennial Elementary, which is pending final approval by the school and park boards.

The $2.3 million facility would be shared between Centennial and the parks, adding to the idea that shared spaces enhance the community overall, said Broc Lietz, assistant superintendent of business services.

“We really tried to work hard to try and meet the needs of the community as well as the needs of the schools,” Lietz said.

Wimmer said security does become an issue when you allow more unaffiliated people to enter into spaces like schools, but the benefit to the overall population is worth the risk.

“There is going to be some damage if we unlock facilities,” Wimmer said. “But 90 percent of it is going to be positive action and activity that happens.”

In recent years, school officials had voting polls taken out of schools in Fargo because of security concerns, but Wimmer said this proposal to open community spaces would probably not affect polling locations.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518


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