Jumping for sales dollars

Body: 

The ski jumps at Pine Valley are among the last ones in the Northland and they need some TLC, members of the Cloquet Ski Club tried to explain to the Cloquet City Council on Tuesday night.

In fact, Pine Valley needs more than tender loving care — it could use an infusion of local sales tax dollars like many of the other parks in Cloquet. Ski Club coach and former Nordic ski standout Pat Marciniak wondered if the City Council would consider working with the club to make some improvements at the nearly 60-year-old facility.

More than a dozen Nordic skiers and ski jumpers of all ages attended the meeting Tuesday, many wearing Cloquet Ski Club T-shirts. Four of them addressed the council during the public comment portion of the meeting.

The youngest of those was Aidan Ripp, a Cloquet High School senior who is on the USA Junior National Nordic Combined team, a sport that combines ski jumping with cross-country — also known as Nordic — skiing. While Aidan competes on the men's team, his younger sister, Charlotte, is competing for the first girls USA Junior National Nordic Combined team. Both of them learned to jump at Pine Valley and ski for the CHS Nordic ski team.

Terry Thompson talked about growing up in Duluth, where they had an impressive ski jumping complex at Chester Bowl.

"Unfortunately, the jumps fell into disrepair and turned out to be too expensive to repair, so they were torn down and scrapped," he said. "It would be a shame to lose the Cloquet jumps. We have the only facility in the area."

The closest and only other outstate ski jumps are located in Coleraine, a nearly 90-minute drive. Other than that, the only other ski jumps are in the Twin Cities, he said, noting that a former Olympic jumper even brings his child to Pine Valley from Duluth to jump sometimes.

David Marc invited the council to see the kids jump Tuesday and Thursday nights at the park. They have kids ages 2-18 who jump off of tiny snow ramps, along with the 20- and 40-meter jumps.

"The club has grown and we'd really love to have the support of the city," Marc said. "We want to improve the club and the facilities so generations to come can enjoy this sport."

In addition to the Cloquet Ski Club, which has close to 25 jumpers and probably another 50 skiers, plus their parents, the Cloquet High School Nordic ski team makes its home at Pine Valley every winter. That team has grown to nearly 75 varsity and junior varsity skiers who use the park five days a week after school. Many other area skiers also use the free ski trails, which are lit at night during the winter months.

Mayor Dave Hallback thanked the group for coming and encouraged them to keep working at getting support. Although the city has spent all of the sales tax dollars allocated specifically for parks, they are working with the state Legislature to allow the city more flexibility in spending the rest of the sales tax money, particularly money dedicated to the proposed business development at the intersection of Minnesota Highway 33 and Interstate 35, which is no longer in the works.

Marciniak plans to go to the next Parks Commission meeting to discuss ideas for improving the winter sports at Pine Valley.