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Nathan Bowe, Forum News Service, Published July 12 2013

Organizers hope to raise final $1 million from public for Detroit Mountain Recreational Area

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – With birds and dragonflies darting in the sunlight, and the long green of Detroit Mountain sloping down behind them, organizers with the Detroit Mountain Recreational Area laid out plans for a first-class snow sport and mountain biking facility.

The media briefing Thursday launched the public phase of a fundraising effort that so far has been successful.

The entire project will cost about $7 million, and organizers have gone a long way toward meeting that goal: Some $4.8 million has been raised from businesses and individuals, and about $1 million in new market tax credits has been committed to the project by the Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corp.

The city of Detroit Lakes has kicked in another $300,000.

Now organizers hope to raise the final $1 million from the public to clinch the deal and make the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area a reality.

To sweeten the pot, the Otto Bremer Foundation is providing $200,000 in 1-to-1 matching funds.

“So the next $200,000 in contributions will count double,” said Mark Fritz, a DMRA board member who leads the fundraising effort.

Detroit Lakes will own the land and provide oversight and management of the facility, said Mayor Matt Brenk.

“Much like Detroit Lakes is a regional summer hub, the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area will expand Detroit Lakes as a four-season destination,” he said at a news conference.

“The economic impact to the city and surrounding area will be tremendous, increasing tourism, bolstering our retail and service industries and providing potential new industry and manufacturing with another reason to locate in Detroit Lakes.”

Jeff Staley, president of the DMRA board, welcomed about two-dozen people to the event, held next to the former Detroit Mountain ski lodge.

“For some of you, welcome back,” he said with a smile. “It’s been far too long, hasn’t it?”

“The vision of DMRA is to build a first-class four-season recreational destination on this, the old Detroit Mountain site,” Fritz told the media.

“We envision great purpose-built mountain bike trails and ride park, with hiking trails and an awesome scenic overlook for summer visitors,” he said. “In the winter, Detroit Mountain will be open for skiing and snowboarding, with terrain parks, cross-country skiing and a super tubing hill.”

The ultimate goal, he said, is to make the community “an even better place to live, work and raise a family.”

The results of a “quiet” fundraising campaign that started last winter took even organizers by surprise.

About 200 businesses and individuals were asked to contribute.

“We’ve not been turned down a single time,” said Tom Hanson, owner of Zorbaz.

Well, not quite. “We were turned down twice,” Fritz said. “But they rethought it and came back and contributed.”

If the funding comes together as hoped, the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area will be open for skiing in the winter of 2014-15 and biking in the summer of 2015, he said.

Asked why the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area will succeed when the old ski operation didn’t survive, Fritz said the new facility will have four to five times the snowmaking capability, and new technology allows snow to be made at warmer temperatures.

As a nonprofit park, the new recreation area will also benefit from tax-free status, city support and new infrastructure.

Donations to the project are tax deductible and can be made through the website www.detroitmountain.com or the Bring Back Detroit Mountain page on Facebook.