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Fond du Lac gets $85,000 Super Bowl grant

Fond du Lac Ojibwe freshman Isabelle Proulx (left) and senior Edward Defoe (right), along with Katie Gokee, health educator with FDL Human Services, and Ferdinand Martineau Jr., FDL Band secretary-treasurer, look at the ceremonial check from the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee for a grant to help complete a walking trail, improve a community garden and an outdoor skating rink in Brookston. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

Although the 52nd Super Bowl will be held Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is already benefitting from the big game.

Fond du Lac received an $85,000 grant from the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Tuesday afternoon during an unveiling ceremony in a field near the reservation's Cloquet Community Center on Big Lake Road.

Thanks in part to the donation, the paved walking path along Big Lake Road and past B&B Market will be extended. The path will continue on the same side of the road and end at the community center, encouraging more people to walk or bike, while ensuring safety from the traffic on the busy road.

Dana Nelson, vice president of legacy and community partnerships for the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, addressed the small crowd.

"What we're here to do today, on this gorgeous day, is to present a check as part of our 52 Weeks of Giving," Nelson said. She explained the organization is awarding grants to 52 communities to improve the health and wellness of young people in Minnesota.

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community contributed $300,000 to the 52 Weeks of Giving program. According to their press release, "extreme poverty and the loss of traditional foods have caused many Native Americans to suffer from poor or inadequate diets. Today, Native Americans face the worst health disparities of all other groups of Americans, including some of the highest levels of diabetes and obesity. More than 24 percent of Native American households in the United States live below the federal poverty line — and Native American kids are most at risk because of these alarming statistics."

The bulk of the funds will go to help pay for the walking path extension, which is expected to cost $1.1 million. Funding is provided by Fond du Lac, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Minnesota Department of Transportation Enhancement Program. The path is a partnership between the Fond du Lac Band and Carlton County.

The 45-day project is tentatively planned to start next spring.

"It will be a 10-foot-wide paved trail and will be one-and-a-half miles long," FDL Planning Director Jason Hollinday said.

He explained there are two versions of the new walking path: a basic with benching and signage, like the current path, or a "Cadillac" version, which would have exercise stations along the pathway. The signage will be in English and Ojibwe.

The grant also will help make improvements at the Fond du Lac Ojibwe school and community garden, which teaches students how to plant indigenous crops.

In addition, to help encourage outdoor activity during the winter, the skating rink at Brookston will be renovated. Free use of ice skates will be available.