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Big plans in the works for Brainerd's Big Sev sledding hill

A rack of sleds sits at the top of Big Sev, available for anyone who wants to take a ride.

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After installing a new sled rack at the top of the hill, Troy Harris, Brainerd park maintenance foreman, left, and Dave Badeaux, Brainerd mayor, race down Big Sev at Hitch-Wayne Park Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021, in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

One of Brainerd’s lesser-known parks is about to make a big name for itself.

Those native to Brainerd might be familiar with Big Sev, the sledding hill at Hitch-Wayne Park off South Seventh Street. Those who are newer to the area may not be aware of the small and mostly undeveloped park tucked back in the trees between Tamarac and Vine streets.

Brainerd residents have sledded the big, sloping hills for decades, but the park’s upkeep has gone to the backburner in recent years.

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After installing a new sled rack at the top of the hill, Troy Harris, Brainerd park maintenance foreman, left, and Dave Badeaux, Brainerd mayor, race down Big Sev at Hitch-Wayne Park Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021, in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

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When Hitch-Wayne Park was first established and dedicated in the 1960s, there were big plans, said Brainerd Mayor Dave Badeaux as he stood atop the snow-covered hill Thursday, Dec. 30. Ideas of a baseball field, ice rink and warming house floated around, but the money never came together.

“Over time, it just kind of continued to be a sledding hill,” Badeaux said. “And then in the last 15 years, we just haven’t had the resources to get back in and take care of it like we should. That’s one of our goals as a city, to really start taking the time to do the little things and make sure that the experiences that people have are viable and usable.”

Badeaux himself grabbed a sled and took to the hill in early December, garnering a lot of chatter about Big Sev on Facebook. Members of the “Share history and stories about Brainerd Lakes Area” Facebook page commented on his Facebook post, recounting their days of sledding down the big hill on pieces of cardboard as kids, with memories dating back to the 1940s. While the park was named after prominent Brainerd Realtor Vern Hitch and Wayne Rosvold, a 5-year-old who died in an accident near his home in the 1960s, the sledding hill has always been called Big Sev, which is believed to come from its position off South Seventh Street.

At one point in time there were multiple runs going in various directions, which is what Badeaux envisions again for the future.

“Our goal is eventually to get back to that. A lot of that will take some kid power — some kids with some adventurous spirits going back down through the woods,” he said. “... The goal is just to get it to a point where it’s very conducive, a little less of a secret, and people may actually know what the name of the park is.”

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After some of the brush was cleared from the area earlier this year to make for better sledding, city council member Gabe Johnson suggested having sleds available for community members to use if they didn’t have their own. Badeaux decided to use some money out of his mayoral contingency fund to purchase the sleds, and city council member Mike O’Day built a wooden rack to hold them. Complete with a sign engraved by those at the Downtown Brainerd business Minnesota Makerspace, the rack now stands at the top of the sledding hill, anchored to a tree.

“The big goal is just to slowly make some improvements over the next couple years,” Badeaux said, noting he is also working with Brainerd Public Utilities to get a light pole at the top of the hill.

After setting up the sled rack, securing it into place and putting the sleds out for use Thursday, Badeaux and Parks Maintenance Foreman Troy Harris did the only logical thing next — ride down the hill. It was slowgoing at first with all the fresh, fluffy snow, but they made tracks and were racing down in no time.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .

Related Topics: RECREATION
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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