People's Free Skate Rink architects start on next winter venture: Snow Fort City

Lake Superior Aquaman hopes to turn Leif Erikson Park into Snow Fort City

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Jim Richardson (right) lifts his bucket to reveal a perfectly smooth snow block as Troy Rodgers aka Robot Rickshaw uses loose snow as mortar to secure the blocks in Leif Erikson Park Monday. (Tyler Schank /

Jim Richardson doesn't remember the last time he built a snow fort.

He figures he probably built a few when his daughter, now 21, was young, but this winter he's hoping to rally enough people together to turn Duluth's Leif Erikson Park into Snow Fort City.

Locally known as Lake Superior Aquaman , Richardson stood behind a chest-high wall of snow blocks that his friends built after the snow let up Sunday and explained his vision for the network of community-built snow forts.

"We want to have superhighways for sledding, including jumps," Richardson said Monday afternoon, pointing at the park's hillside. "This would be dotted with (snow) structures and statuary."


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Jim Richardson aka Lake Superior Aquaman's latest project is to build a snow fort city in Leif Erikson Park. Much like his People's Free Skate Rink last year, he plans to host live shows when it's complete. (Tyler Schank /

He's hoping to recruit Harry Welty, who routinely makes snow sculptures in his front yard off Fourth Street and 21st Avenue East , to sculpt a sphinx for it.

Richardson is building walls of snow up each side of the stage using 5-gallon buckets, but he's leaving the center open in case they host a concert or some sort of performance there.

There's not really a set plan otherwise, so he's hoping anyone who wants to build a snow fort or sculpture feels free to contribute.

After last year's successful People's Free Skate Rink, an ice rink shoveled by Richardson and others a quarter mile out on Lake Superior that hosted community parties and live shows , he didn't want to wonder if or when the lake would freeze over again.

So he dreamed up Snow Fort City.

If the lake freezes up, then they'll host Free Skate again, too.

Troy Rogers, locally known as Robot Rickshaw for his music-making robots, also helped with last year's ice rink. On Monday, he cross-country skied down the Lakewalk and started helping Richardson with one of the walls on the park's stage.


Rogers said he wants to "see what people build — for fun, for art and for chaos."

"It's a similar attraction to what we had going at the Free Skate last year," Rogers said. "This allows us to get a little bit more architectural."

The almost 2 feet of fresh snow that fell over the weekend certainly helped the effort, even if it wasn't sticky enough to pack into strong bricks Monday evening. Richardson said high temperatures hovering right around freezing this week should help with that.

"We're just going to see what the weather does for us. Also, we can't stop vandals knocking everything down, and so rebirth and rebuilding has got to be central to the concept," Richardson said.

Richardson said he'll be working on snow forts at Leif Erikson Park every afternoon this week after 2 p.m. and that everybody is welcome to join him or build forts of their own.

"I just want basically a place where families and individuals can go have a good time," Richardson said.

Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at or 218-723-5332.
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