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City, school ironing out land swap details

The old Halsted sports field on the east end of Two Harbors may soon move closer to the high school.

The City of Two Harbors and Lake Superior School District are working on an agreement to swap the field, located along Seventh Avenue, with a six-acre piece of land adjacent to the Lake County Fairgrounds on Highway 2. The city presented a tentative agreement to the school board at Thursday's school board meeting in Silver Bay.

"This is a conceptual agreement. The details haven't been worked out," council president Jerry Norberg said at the meeting.

While there are many aspects to be ironed out, such as how to connect the site to utilities like electricity, water and sewer, the proposal would put the sports field closer to the high school and allow the city access to a prime piece of real estate that's adjacent to its new campground.

"We appreciate the dialogue that has taken place," Two Harbors mayor Randy Bolen said. "We're all guardedly optimistic we can get something done."

The field hosted varsity football and soccer games when the high school was located on Fourth Avenue. It was deeded to the school district, with the agreement stating that the land would return to the city when it was no longer being used for recreational field.

The land was expected to go back to the city shortly after the new high school opened on Highway 2 in 2006. However, the new fields weren't immediately ready, so many practices and games were played at Old Halsted.

Although the new fields are finished, city councilor Cathy Erickson said that the school still uses Halsted to reduce wear and tear on the stadium field and to host overflow practices and junior varsity games.

In the meantime, the city filled and rehabbed the site of a former landfill adjacent to the Lake County Fairgrounds and constructed a campground next to the Old Halsted Field. Erickson said the campground gave them a renewed interest in reclaiming the field, and the remediated landfill was something they could offer the school district in exchange.

"We're like, 'holy cow, what an opportunity to reuse an area that couldn't be used for much else and start working on the vision that the city has,'" she said.

Erickson was the business manager for the school district from 2000 to 2005 and she said giving Halsted back to the city has been on the backburner for more than a decade, since the district passed an operating referendum in 2002.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said the former landfill site has limited use. One of the approved uses, however, is a recreational field. The city is currently gathering documents to assure the district that the land is safe.

While Erickson said the city doesn't have any immediate plans for Halsted field, they would likely start with a barrier of trees between the field and the campground.

In addition to the school district and the city, Lake County and the Lake County Agricultural Society and Fair Board will be present in future discussions.

"I would like to see us continue negotiating with the city and the county," said school board member Cyndi Ryder at October's school board meeting. "We need to make darn sure this comes out a win-win for everybody."

LaReesa Sandretsky
LaReesa Sandretsky is a Two Harbors High School graduate and Duluth native who began working at the News-Chronicle in 2012 as a reporter. She took over as editor in 2014. She covers County Board, including the Lake County broadband project.
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