Sons of Norway donate kicksleds to Nature Center

Published 4:51 pm Thursday, January 26, 2023

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The Jay C. Hormel Nature Center unveiled 10 new kicksleds during a ceremony Thursday morning in the Interpretive Center.

The Norwegian sleds were donated by the Sons of Norway in Austin, who worked with area organizations to purchase the sleds. 

Steve Enstad, president of the Sons of Norway, said that three organizations — The Austin Area Foundation, Freeborn Mower Cooperative Services and the Sons of Norway itself — gave grants of $1,000 each to the project.

Sons of Norway President Steve Enstad gives background of the kicksleds that were delivered to the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center Thursday morning. Eric Johnson/

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“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Enstad said. “They haven’t been in Austin before. What it does is give a new recreational opportunity for Austin in all age groups.”

Kicksleds can have a variety of uses, including moving people or objects around during the winter. There is a seating area where one sits or objects can be placed and then the sled is propelled forward by someone pushing off the ground.

Nature Center Director Luke Reese said the sleds provide another opportunity for people to get outside during the winter months.

“We believe very strongly that people should get outdoors, out in nature in all four seasons,” Reese said. “Winter is a great season to be outside and to be exercising. To enjoy nature. To view scenery. This is just another way for people to get outside and enjoy the outdoors in Minnesota in the winter.”

The idea for the kicksleds came from Sons of Norway member Darrell Ingvaldson and his wife Diane after they had seen a TV show on the sleds in March.

Mary Olson pushes Rebecca Simon on a newly deliverd kicksled at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center Thursday morning. Eric Johnson/

In April, Ingvaldson brought the idea to the group.

“We showed it to them at the meeting and everybody thought that it sounded like a good idea,” he said. “Something to keep the people outside and keep active.”

The sleds themselves came from a Scandia Kicksled near Houston, Minnesota. It is the first time he’s had any experience with a kicksled, Ingvaldson said. 

“We went to Houston to pick them up and put them together,” he said. “My grandson, who’s three and a half, took off like a bullet and it’s been great since then.”

The Sons of Norway have aspirations to procure more sleds for the community and are waiting for outside grants to come through. The aim is to be able to purchase 40 or 50 more sleds.

“We’ve applied for several more grants to get the rest of them, plus we have to have the maintenance parts and maybe groomers for the trails. We think it’s a great opportunity.”

Even though there are 10 sleds already in Austin, it might be awhile before the sleds are ready for public use as the Nature Center and Parks, Recreation & Forestry figure out how to best use them.

Technically, the sleds can be used at the Nature Center, but there are concerns on what they could do to the ski trails.

“They work well on our ski trails, but when you kick you leave divots as you go,” Reese explained. “We don’t want to have a conflict between the skiers and the kicksledders. The best fit is going to be in the community on the trails and in the parks.”

Reese said that it might be a situation where the Nature Center acts as a central location where people can come pick them up and use them at different places in the community. However, details on what that might look like are still in the works. 

“This winter we’re going to try some stuff out and explore how we can use them and then I expect we’ll have our act together next winter,” Reese said.

Regardless, all involved are looking forward to the opportunities the sleds present.

“I thought especially in Austin, which is such a diverse community, it just gives new opportunities,” Enstad said. “After all, we want to get people out to the Nature Center.”