City plans to remove Chester Bowl ski jumps
The city of Duluth has set a public meeting for next week to discuss plans for the “removal and memorialization” of the historic ski jumps at Chester Bowl. While the jumps will come down, a new downhill ski run will be installed to enhance the healthy alpine program.
“We wanted to make sure people weren’t surprised, to let them know that there’s other things happening simultaneously,” said Paula Reed, the city’s community relations officer.
Reed has reached out to the former ski jump community — one with a rich past — since April to help ease the transition from having actual jumps to memorializing them and the program. Local artists will be solicited to provide prospective ways to remember the ski jumping program, one that used to produce Olympians before succumbing to dwindling participation.
“They appreciate the fact we’re going to memorialize,” Reed said.
The meeting is set to be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Central Hillside Community Center, 12 E. Fourth St.
The jumps — dubbed Big Chester and Little Chester — were built in 1924 and 1969, respectively. They have fallen into disrepair and would require significant work to survive, city parks officials told the News Tribune in 2012. The last ski jump competition at Chester Bowl was in 2005.
“The funds just aren’t there,” to restore, Reed said.
Officials said that leaving the jumps as they were was not a valid option because they are not structurally sound, and they continue to attract climbers despite having closed gates and warning signs. At that time, officials said removing the jumps was a possibility.
Chester Bowl Improvement Club executive director Thom Storm said as a park manager he sees why it is practical to remove the jumps.
“I see it as a liability because kids climb the ski jumps all the time and it is not safe,” Storm said. “It is old construction and it hasn’t been maintained.”
However, on a more personal level, Storm does not want to see the ski jumps removed.
“Personally, I grew up in a ski jumping family … it’s a historical Norwegian part of my heritage,” Storm said. “I’m sad to see this era come to an end. I’m not trying to push for them (the jumps) to be removed.”
In 2011, the city tore down the lower portions of Big and Little Chester, removing the steps and judging stands to reduce the number of people climbing up the aging structures.
In 2007, the city considered dismantling the jumps, sparking an outcry to save them. Plans to shore up and restore the jumps at that time did not pan out.
Duluth was once was known as a hotbed for ski jumping, and several Olympians grew up practicing and competing on the Chester Park jumps.