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Pippi Mayfield, Forum News Service , Published January 07 2013

Denial of grant leaves DL ski resort project in limbo

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – The Detroit Mountain Recreation Area plan has hit a major bump in the ski slope.

The city of Detroit Lakes was denied the Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trail Grant and Legacy Grant funding.

Those two grants made up $2.6 million of the proposed $6.2 million project to reopen downhill skiing at the facility. The project would also add tubing, cross-country skiing, hiking, camping, bike trails, bathroom facilities and a new lodge.

“We advised the Detroit Mountain group that we received that notice,” City Administrator Bob Louiseau said. “I think they will be looking at what their options are at this point. I don’t know exactly what they’re going to do.”

Those options include finding support from other potential supporters to reopen Detroit Mountain, which has been closed since 2004. If open, it would be the closest ski hill to the Fargo-Moorhead area.

“While we’re disappointed, it’s not something we’re surprised about,” said Mark Fritz, a spokesman for the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area group.

Soon after submitting the grant, the group found out that more than 800 applicants had asked for $46 million in funding for the $7 million available. Seven projects were funded.

Last fall, the city approved contributing $300,000 to the project and also becoming the landowner if the project went through. With the city 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 would manage the property. The likely manager would be the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area, though the city has the final say.

Proposed financing for the Detroit Mountain project consisted of $2.1 million from the DNR’s Parks and Trail Grant, $500,000 from the Legacy fund, $989,000 from federal tax credits designed to spur investment in low-income communities and $2.3 million from donations, which the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area had pledged to raise.

Any new proposal that involves the city would need to come before the council for approval again.

“What I would expect is sometime in February or March, we would get some feedback from them on where things are at, what they are planning to do,” Louiseau said.

Fritz said Detroit Mountain Recreation Area members have been talking to community residents to gauge the level of support.

“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.”