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The dream: Converting empty north Fargo field into skate park, nature trail

Madison Park in northwest Fargo sits empty Wednesday July 7. A new skate park has been proposed for the area in the northwest corner. Matt Hellman / The Forum1 / 3
Madison Park and Madison Elementary School in north Fargo, with area for proposed skate park.2 / 3
Schematic of proposed Madison Park skate park.3 / 3

FARGO – Organizers plan to transform a now-empty field in the Madison neighborhood of north Fargo into a skate park geared toward young kids and an educational nature trail, if they can get enough money to pay for it.

The Legacy Children’s Foundation, the Fargo Park District and other organizations have completed and approved plans to turn the northwest corner of Madison Park into a skate park. The foundation is seeking a $50,000 federal block grant to begin construction.

Matt Magness, a Fargo Park Board commissioner, said he’s not worried about getting money for the project. And even if a grant can only provide partial funding, he said the foundation will continue raising funds to start construction on the park, which the board approved earlier this year.

The 70-by-70 skate park would be intended for beginners, unlike the more advanced Dike West Skate Park in downtown Fargo.

Magness said the goal is to make sure kids who live in the Madison area have something to do.

“There’s statistically a little bit more crime in that area of town,” he said. “Kids aren’t getting as much of an opportunity to participate in things.”

The Fargo-Moorhead Area Foundation has contributed $10,000 to the project and the Park District $25,000, Fargo parks director Dave Leker said in an email. The Park District would be responsible for maintaining the skate park.

Magness said the Park Board was already planning to build a skate park in the school’s vacant yard, but the Legacy Children's Foundation approached it with plans to expand the existing proposal.

He said skateboarding is popular in Fargo, and it’s easily accessible to kids who want to try it out.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Barb Wirth, who works in the area.

The educational nature trail planned by the four-year-old Legacy Children's Foundation would crisscross the park, which the school district owns.

The two projects have received more than $150,000 in donations, and the nature trail project was awarded $60,000 from the North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Fund, said Mary Jean Dehne, founder of the Legacy Children's Foundation.

The trail would feature native trees and plants and have a kiosk in each corner of the park, each with its own theme such as “Living with the Land.”

North Dakota State University professors helped create plans for the kiosks, and the city of Fargo donated 80 trees for the park. Dehne wants local kids to plant the trees in 2017.

“It’s dried up and not being used for anything,” she said said of the park. “This could really be transformed into something beautiful.”

For Magness, it’s a matter of introducing kids to nature.

“Fargo’s getting bigger,” he said. “There’s a little less inherent understanding and exposure to native plants and natural areas.”

Fargo artist Brad Bachmeier and local kids have been working on a brick mural and arch for the north end of the proposed park.

The art project is the Fargo Arts and Culture Commission’s first installation, Dehne said. Students at nearby Madison Elementary School and Legacy Children's Foundation volunteers helped Bachmeier, a Minnesota State University Moorhead professor, finish much of the work on the mural in June.

The mural has designs and symbols from the different cultures that are represented at Madison Elementary.

“We wanted it to be fun and whimsical in nature, but also have some element of discovery,” Bachmeier said. The installment will also have a lizard-shaped play area.

He thinks the installments will be fired and ready in a few weeks. Dehne said if the skate park proposal can get funding soon, construction can finish by the end of the summer. The nature trail would come later.

“I don’t think of them as amenities,” she said. “People all over the city should be able to walk to a place to exercise, to hang out. It’s a quality of life issue.”