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Quality recreation programs up to us

Last Sunday afternoon, about 25 volunteers slogged around in knee boots placing 150 feet of boardwalk over a soggy lowland in a Duluth park. Matthew Evingson of Duluth and members of COGGS -- Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores -- led the project in...

Last Sunday afternoon, about 25 volunteers slogged around in knee boots placing 150 feet of boardwalk over a soggy lowland in a Duluth park. Matthew Evingson of Duluth and members of COGGS -- Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores -- led the project in Duluth's Hartley Park.

They did it because, frankly, nobody else was going to do it. And because it needed to be done. The new boardwalk will prevent erosion and degradation along part of a popular mountain-biking trail.

The work was performed in a city park, but our city has run out of money to do projects such as this one. I'm making no judgments about how we, as a city, got so far into this budget mess. What I'm saying is that one thing has become clear. Many of the services we once counted on the city to provide will now fall to us. You. Me. Anyone else we can muster.

The bikers aren't the first group to pull on their boots and get to work. When the city had to lay off the head of Chester Park's longstanding downhill ski program for kids, a parents' group stepped up. The program will continue. Understand, that association of parents had been volunteering on the ski hill and in the ski chalet for years to assist with the program and defray its costs. Now, it's running the whole show.

Word came Wednesday that at least five, and maybe up to 11, of the city's pleasure ice-skating rinks would be closed this winter unless residents volunteer to keep them open. Community groups have committed to keep four running. The fate of others is yet to be determined.

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"It just depends on how many volunteers we get in the community," Parks and Recreation Director Kathy Bergen said.

It doesn't appear that these volunteer efforts will be stop-gap measures. Mayor Don Ness said that, at least in the case of the staking rinks, it's a "long term" strategy.

Duluth residents and other Minnesotans have always pitched in to do what needs to be done. Volunteers groom about 18,000 miles of club snowmobile trails in the dark of winter nights each year, albeit with money provided by the state. Volunteers twice a year sweep more than 200 miles of the Superior Hiking Trail to trim branches and haul off deadfall trees. More than 4,000 volunteers turn out to make Grandma's Marathon hum each June.

Now, more of us will have to step forward to take over tasks we took for granted. We can argue over whether this is fair or not. That won't get us far. This is the reality we face.

If we want to hear the happy shouts of kids skating under the stars, if we want kids to keep skiing at a neighborhood hill, if we want to protect a wetland while riding mountain bikes in a city park -- well, grab your gloves.

It's up to us now.

Related Topics: RECREATION
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