Pembina Gorge receives North Dakota Preservation Grant funds


The North Dakota Department of Commerce today announced that the Pembina Gorge Foundation has received a total of $750,000 in matching funds from the North Dakota Gorge Preservation Grant that was allocated during the 66th Legislative Assembly.  

“Commerce  works to protect our unique outdoor places while developing opportunities for our visitors and residents to enjoy them,” Shawn Kessel, deputy commissioner of Commerce. “North Dakota offers unique destinations, like the Pembina Gorge, and activities like those offered at Frost Fire that residents and travelers appreciate. Investing in Pembina Gorge is especially important due to its unique natural surrounding and the location which is within a two-hour radius of over 1.2 million people.” 

Pursuant to Section 19 of 2019 House Bill No. 1018, funds were used for the purchase and maintenance of outdoor recreation equipment, the improvement and maintenance of real property, enhancing public to natural resources and addressing public safety hazards in Pembina Gorge.

Grant recipients qualify for funds based on a dollar-for-dollar match of funds from private or other non-state sources. The private donations received by the Pembina Gorge Foundation were submitted to Commerce for consideration of the documented 1:1 match requirement.

Commerce visited the Pembina site to ensure funds were used in accordance to the grant. Funds from the private donation were used by Frost Fire Park to purchase a portion of the proposed chair lift, electrical work to make the chair lift operational, snow machines, ski equipment, a groomer and sound equipment for the outdoor theater.

“Frost Fire traditions have been at the center of Pembina Gorge activities for more than 45 years,” said Kristi Wilfahrt, Pembina Gorge Foundation interim director. “In 2016, Frost Fire was at risk of closing and being sold to a private individual. Volunteers rallied and called on North Dakota legislators, the governor and Commerce for help to ensure future generations would benefit from Frost Fire and Pembina Gorge traditions. The state has truly been a partner, providing guidance, advocacy and leverage or challenge funds that have been critical to this project and the success thus far. Thanks to the North Dakota Gorge Preservation Grant, Frost Fire Park will be able to open for outdoor recreation this winter.”

In addition to the North Dakota Gorge Preservation Grant, Commerce’s Division of Community Services, in partnership with the Governor’s Office, North Central Regional Planning Council and the Red River Regional Council, provided crucial funding to Frost Fire Ski Resort in the last year and a half.

Funding was provided through the federal Community Development Loan Fund (CDLF) Program, a program aimed to assist eligible recipients in the form of grants and loans for economic development projects. The funding included a grant of $175,000 for equipment and working capital, a low-interest loan for $175,000 for land acquisition and $150,000 for acquisition and additional equipment. The funding helped create more than 12 full-time equivalent positions at Frost Fire Park.  

In total, more than $4.1 million has been committed to Pembina Gorge project through donations, pledges and grants.

The Pembina Gorge extends from the Canadian border west of Walhalla and encompasses one of the largest uninterrupted blocks of woodlands in North Dakota. Its approximately 12,500 acres make it the longest unaltered river valley in the state. The Pembina Gorge is home to the most extensive oak woodland in the state. At least 65 different natural diversity features have been documented in the Pembina Gorge, including 30 plant species and 21 animal species categorized as “rare” in the state.

Recreation in the Pembina Gorge consists of canoeing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, hunting, wildlife observing, birding and riding off highway vehicles guaranteeing year-round family entertainment.