Minot Park District brings aquatics back into discussions

Park board brings back aquatic center discussion

Submitted Photo A female lion roars at the Roosevelt Park Zoo in this photo taken by zookeeper Amanda Cone. Minot Park District is building new cat habitat for its lions and tigers and its five-year plan includes future construction for the leopards.

An aquatics center is getting another look as the Minot Park District develops a new five-year plan for future development.

About 150 people attended a public meeting March 7 to discuss a five-year plan, and a large share of the participants came to support an aquatics center, said Parks Director Ron Merritt and Elly DesLauriers, director of marketing and development.

There is interest in a 50-meter pool that could host meets because currently, Minot doesn’t have a facility capable of accommodating even a regional swim meet, Merritt said.

There’s also an interest in having water activities for children and a place where swim lessons would be available. Swim lessons in Minot now are privately conducted. The park district, which has an outdoor pool, doesn’t offer lessons, although Merritt said that is something that could be considered with the coming merger of the park district and Minot Recreation Commission.

At one time, proponents of an indoor water facility had developed a concept for the Minot Aquatics & Recreation Center that had park district support.

The idea failed to advance after voters, in April 2015, rejected a measure to create a 1 percent city sales tax to go to the Minot Park District for construction of the $88 million center. The sales tax collections at that time also would have been enough to replace the existing property tax that funded the district’s 23 parks and maintenance of more than 700 acres of public property.

The MARC would have offered free public access to a senior lounge, indoor/outdoor park and playground, 400-meter walking and jogging track and indoor turf when not programmed for athletic use.

Voters rejected the measure 1,863 to 3,795.

“People want us to look at this again,” Merritt said. “We don’t know what it’s going to look like, but it’s time to start talking about it again. Behind the scenes, it has never been off our list, but timing is everything.”

Where an aquatics center might land on the five-year plan is uncertain as the board is continuing to develop its priorities. Residents are encouraged to offer input through a survey link on minotparks.com or directly at http://minotparks.com/news/five-year-planning-meeting/.

One project that the park district is hoping to move on this year is the development of the former landfill next to Maysa Arena. The property is an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site, and the park district has been waiting for some time to get its development plans approved by the EPA. There’s been no word from the EPA, despite enlisting the help of Sen. John Hoeven to push things along.

“We try to move on things. We don’t like being bogged down,” Merritt said.

The board has voted to start construction this spring even if still waiting on the EPA. The first nine holes of the disc golf course in the plan can get started without EPA approval because they will be located off the Superfund property, Merritt said.

Any ground penetration with the disc golf course will follow required protocols for the Superfund site, and much of the work, such as the proposed cross-country trail, will only involve surface work. Consequently, there shouldn’t be an EPA concern that would preclude construction going forward, Merritt said.

DesLauriers said the new scenic cross-country trail will eliminate the need to inconvenience golfers because it would replace use of the Souris Valley Golf Course for meets.