Four candidates seek seats on Minot Park Board

Four candidates are vying for three spots on the Minot Park Board in the June 10 city election.

Early voting will be available June 2 through 5 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Ward County Courthouse.

Connie Feist and Richard Sabol are seeking re-election, while Charles Emery and Nancy Beck are looking to win spots on the board.

Feist, the owner of Mile One Running Shop, is seeking her third term. Sabol, a retired teacher, is seeking his second term.

Emery has managed Minot Park District’s Maysa Arena for about 14 years. He plans to retire next January but would move his retirement to July 9 if elected.

Beck is a teacher at Erik Ramstad Middle School and works with the Minot Swim Club.

The candidates addressed the following questions about park services and the role of the park board.

What are your thoughts on the park board pursuing an indoor recreation and wellness center?

Beck: I think it is an awesome idea. I think the people in Minot have seen a lot of growth over the last few years. Not all of the growth has been positive for the citizens. A recreation facility would be something that the community could see as a benefit from the growth we have experienced. People who are thinking of moving into a community investigate what recreational facilities are available for their families, so this may make a difference in their decision on whether they choose Minot.

Emery: I feel a recreation center would be a good addition to the Minot community. At this time, the park board has contracted with an agency to conduct a feasibility study and develop a business plan for such a center. What a center would look like is up to the input received from the citizens of Minot. I want to see what the people want. If this is a project that is desired by the citizens, then it is a project that should be explored and acted on.

Feist: I fully support conducting a study to determine unmet needs and opportunities for public recreation in our community. I’m glad that the scope of the study will be comprehensive and include all current facilities, athletic fields and parks. I am looking forward to the results, which might identify ways to improve upon existing facilities and foster partnerships with other community organizations. I view the study as a responsible approach to developing a plan for the park district to meet the expectations of a growing population.

Sabol: With the growing population within Minot and the desire to have activities year round, it is an important aspect to Minot’s growth. If this project is going to happen, many entities need to get on board besides the park district, such as the public and private schools, MSU and the user groups. We need some type of all-season facility, and I hope that the consulting firm can bring about some type of quality facility.

Are there other projects that you think the park district should be looking at for its existing facilities?

Emery: The park district needs to complete the projects that are in the works at this time. We need to grow but we need to take care of things. At one time it was the intent to take care of the facilities that we have, and that needs to be at the forefront of the vision of the park district. The park district needs to ensure the resources, both financially and manpower, are in place to take care of the already planned expansions before any more are brought up.

Feist: Much of the focus for the past three years has been restoring the facilities and parks that were flooded. I think the park district has done a great job of returning the facilities to pre-flood condition and in many cases have improved them. Now we are able to turn the focus to the number of existing parks that could be enhanced with more amenities such as splash pads, frisbee golf courses, horse shoe pits, flower beds, picnic shelters and grills.

Sabol: The zoo has and will be making great strides this summer and next year. the addition of the aviary and the Red Panda exhibit will be the start of new items coming to the zoo. One of the projects that I have been looking at enhancing is another bark park. I am looking at the possibility of adding some agility items to the park. These could also be added to a new park. Driving past the west side of town, you can see that the park has many people and crowding is a concern. The park district held an open forum last year, and one of the concerns was the bark park. I have been looking at the possibility of establishing another area on the east side in the Jefferson Park area.

Beck: I would like to see more neighborhood parks. It would be nice to see a few more tennis courts, skateboard parks and outdoor skating rinks available for kids to have available to them without having to rely on their parents to drive them across town.

Some say Minot needs more small neighborhood parks due to its growth. How and where should parks be expanded?

Feist: We have seen a trend in our community for people to frequent destination parks that have more amenities (such as Oak Park and Roosevelt) as opposed to small neighborhood parks. As Minot grows I think there should be a mix of park types and green spaces in developing areas. I believe that a key priority for the park system should be to construct a trail system that provides good accessibility and connectivity between parks and facilities within our whole community.

Sabol: I’m opposed to having many small neighborhood parks. Cost of securing property and maintenance is a growing concern. Many of the new subdivisions coming into town are proposing to have their own park areas. If we have two or three larger parks with amenities pools, play equipment, etc. that should be sufficient. It all comes down to cost effectiveness for the district.

Beck: Having parks close to schools is a good place to start. It would be an ideal situation if someday we had a park within a realistic walking distance to every family in Minot.

Emery: To develop neighborhood parks in the expanding Minot area, first and foremost, land needs to be set aside. The ordinances that have been in the works for some time need to be finalized to work with developers to accomplish the land set-aside. With the development of park areas farther from central Minot and from the park district’s center of operations, there will need to be satellite operation centers and storage buildings for equipment.

Which park services or facilities do you use most and what are your perceptions of how well those services are being delivered?

Sabol: The park services that I use most are the Roosevelt Park Zoo and Park and Oak Park. These three areas that were devastated by the flood have come back better. The zoo has returned its animals and is proactive and looking to the future. Oak and Roosevelt parks are full and many new improvements will be occurring on those sites.

Beck: Personally, I use the tennis courts, the walking/biking paths, the swimming pool, and on a rare occasion, the golf course. One of the things I would like to see is the walking/biking paths be maintained throughout the winter. There has been discussion about not maintaining some of the tennis courts around town. I think this is a shame. Once again, we need to keep recreation opportunities available to neighborhood children and their families.

Emery: Maysa Arena, Souris Valley Golf Course, Roosevelt Park Zoo and Oak Park are probably the facilities I utilize the most. The working employees of the Minot Park District do an outstanding job of maintaining all the facilities and providing excellent quality of life opportunities for everyone who visits or lives in Minot.

Feist: I am an avid runner and utilize the parks and trails year round. I think the park district does a good job of keeping main trials plowed and clear of debris throughout the year. However, there is a division of responsibilities between the park district and the City of Minot for maintenance on various trails, and I think the public would be better served if just one organization was accountable for all trail upkeep in our community.

What knowledge and background would you bring to the position?

Beck: It is helpful that I’m interested in many areas of the parks. I am not just pro one area. I bike, play tennis, rollerblade and golf occasionally. I also have a strong background in swimming. Being a teacher and a coach, I have to deal with all types of personalities. I feel like I am a good negotiator and have people skills that would be beneficial in dealing with the public. For several years I served as the PTA president of the elementary school my children attended. I also served on my church council and several other committees. The accounting degree I have would also give me an added advantage of understanding the financial challenges of parks and recreation.

Emery: I have 14 years of experience as the Maysa Arena manager, which I believe gives me a perspective from the internal side of the park district. I have worked with many of the partners and users of facilities throughout the park district and that experience will help in making the park district even more fiscally responsible and provide facilities and services that are desired by all users. (Emery is a U.S. Air Force veteran and has been chairman of the supervisory committee of Northern Tier Federal Credit Union since 1991 and is a member of the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee).

Feist: I has been my pleasure to serve on the park board for the past eight years. As a mother, business owner and involved community volunteer, I try to bring an informed and sensible perspective to the many issues that arise in a growing park district. I am committed to exploring collaborations and partnership opportunities with other community organizations such as the schools, recreation commission and the YMCA. It is my belief that if we pool our resources and expertise we can accomplish much more together to enhance the quality of life in our community.

Sabol: Having served one term on the park board, I have been able to see the rebuilding process after the flood, and currently I am watching all of the new projects the park district has in store. My growing knowledge of the park district and budgeting process has and will continue to help me keep improving our park system.