Historical Village discusses future growth

The Ward County Historical Society Pioneer Village had about 3,700 visitors during the State Fair last week, according to Sue Began, site director.

“Everyone enjoyed (themselves) and were very impressed and happy with the wonderful progress we have made at restoration,” said Bergan in an e-mail on Thursday.

The museum was heavily damaged during the flood of 2011 and volunteers have worked hard to restore the buildings and grounds.

Bergan said about 1,000 people signed a petition in support of keeping the museum on the fairgrounds and in favor of moving a one-room schoolhouse, the oldest school in Ward County, to the museum grounds. The school, the former Graham No. 1 in St. Mary’s School District, was donated to the museum by the late Robert Sandstrom. It is currently sitting in a field near Lonetree. The Fair Board has thus far refused permission to relocate the school building to the fairgrounds.

Earlier this year, during a State Fair Board meeting, State Fair Manager Renae Korslien said the Fair Board’s master plan includes a plan to eventually build a large convention center on the fairgrounds in the location where the exposition and dairy barns, Jaycees Building and 4H Building are currently situated. The fair board also wants to relocate the road that currently runs by the Pioneer Village Museum on the fairgrounds, which would require moving the museum off the fairgrounds.

Earlier this year, the Fair Board set a September deadline for the historical society to come up with a relocation plan. However, the historical society board contends that that they are under no obligation to move under the terms of a 1966 contract, which states that “the North Dakota State Fair Association will allow the Northwest North Dakota Historical Society to maintain and operate its building located on the fairgrounds.”

“As far as progress on the movement of the school, we are still in negotiations with the N.D. State Fair Board, hoping they will realize all the wonderful support (Ward County Historical Society) has from the people of Minot,” Bergan said Thursday. “Everyone that visited the village during the Fair expressed their desire to see the little red school house on the Pioneer Village grounds.”

Korslien said the State Fair Board is currently waiting for a proposal from the Ward County Historical Society board. The board has not held discussions about the Pioneer Village or moving the schoolhouse onto the museum grounds since last spring, she said Thursday.

“The purpose for the request of moving the Ward County Historical Society is to provide opportunity for growth of the community, the North Dakota State Fair and the Ward County Historical Society,” said Korslien in an e-mail on Friday. “As the attendance from the 2013 Fair has shown, the city of Minot and the State of North Dakota is growing quite rapidly. With this many of the other events held on the fairgrounds have grown such as Ag Expo, Norsk Hostfest, Sport Show and the hope is that with this growth in Minot and the surrounding area will also help bring new conventions and special events to the community. The goal of the State Fair and other community members is to help prepare our city for this growth by providing future amenities on the State Fairgrounds.”

At a meeting earlier this spring, the two sides appeared entrenched in their positions and it seemed possible that the dispute might end up in court. Korslien said that isn’t what the State Fair Board hopes to see.

“It is not our intention to push away the Ward County Historical without anywhere to go,” said Korslien in the e-mail. “The preference of the North Dakota State Fair board is to use our energy and resources to help them find an area that will help them grow as well, rather than use up our resources in court. “

Korslien said there is the possibility that the museum might be able to move to land owned by the Minot Park District.

Ron Merritt, executive director of the Minot Park District, said Friday that the Park District owns about 20 lots north of Roosevelt Park. Some years ago, Merritt said there were discussions about moving the museum to that land and building a bridge across the Souris River from the park to the land where the museum would be located, effectively extending Roosevelt Park. Merritt said under the proposal, the Ward County Historical Society would have leased the land from the Park District at a reasonable price as a non-profit.

Bruce Brooks, treasurer of the Ward County Historical Society, spoke last winter with the Park Board about that option being revived and there was informal discussion about the possibility, but nothing was decided, said Merritt.

“At this point, there’s no definite agreement,” said Merritt on Friday.

Brooks said Saturday that the historical society’s position hasn’t changed and it has no plans to move the pioneer village.

“The historical society has given its response to the fair board and awaits the fair’s decision,” Brooks said.