City names athletic complex after ‘unparalleled’ volunteer

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

For the past three decades, Dave Anderson has spent countless hours improving Elk River’s park and recreation system.

His volunteer efforts were recognized Monday, when the Elk River City Council voted to rename the Orono Athletic Complex the Dave Anderson Athletic Complex.

Anderson said the next day that it is an honor to have a park named after him.

Then he joked: “It’s quite an honor just to be considered, let alone have a park named after you when you’re not dead.”

Dave Anderson, speaking at the opening of Bailey Point  Nature Preserve in Elk River last year. Also pictured is Mayor John Dietz. Star News file photo
Dave Anderson, speaking at the opening of Bailey Point Nature Preserve in Elk River last year. Also pictured is Mayor John Dietz. Star News file photo

The 12-acre athletic complex is located at 13300 Business Center Dr., near Orono Park, and has four lighted softball/baseball fields.

The renaming came out of the blue for Anderson. Mayor John Dietz had requested that the athletic complex be renamed after Anderson. Dietz said he would be hard-pressed to find a person who has volunteered more hours for the city.

Asked what has driven his years of volunteerism, Anderson said, “It’s really who you are and where you came from.”

He said he watched his grandparents and his parents all take an active role in the community.

After Anderson began working on park and recreation projects, he said it turned into a passion, fueled by a desire to leave something for the future.

“Our community is full of volunteers, and we all put our efforts into where our passions lie,” he said. “Mine have gone from running ball leagues and coaching youth sports to doing adult softball to now, more sedate things like (restoring) prairies and trail building and cross-country skiing.”

He said he likes making the community better and has found that it’s a lot of fun.

Dave Anderson
Dave Anderson

Elk River Parks and Recreation Director Michael Hecker described Anderson’s contributions as “tremendous and unparalleled.”

Hecker said Anderson has spent the past 30 years volunteering thousands of hours creating, improving and maintaining Elk River’s park system. Anderson’s volunteer resume is nine pages long.

Anderson has been instrumental in many things, including the development of the Orono Athletic Complex that now bears his name, Hecker said. That work stretched over 17 years, beginning in 1985 and continuing until 2002.

Renaming passes 4-1

The renaming of the athletic complex passed the City Council on a 4-1 vote, with Council Member Paul Motin voting no.

Motin acknowledged that the renaming meets the requirements of the city’s parks and facilities naming policy. And, he said, if anyone deserves to have an Elk River park named after them, Anderson does. But, Motin said, he has a problem naming a facility after a local person doing things of local significance. He’d rather name things after state or national figures.

Motin also said he’d prefer to name a facility after someone who has completed their service, noting that Anderson is the current chair of the Elk River Parks and Recreation Commission.

Dietz pointed out that other places in Elk River bear the names of local people, including Handke Stadium and Salk Middle School. He doesn’t think the fact that Anderson is a local leader, rather than state or national, is a valid reason not to name the athletic complex after him.

But Motin said while Handke and Salk both did a lot locally in years past, younger people or those who haven’t lived in Elk River for years have no idea who they were.

“Those names stick and nobody knows who they are (in future years),” Motin said, saying that’s the problem he has with naming permanent fixtures after local leaders.

Council Member Stewart Wilson said he understands Motin’s point, but people like Handke and Salk were very credible leaders and people should make an effort to find out who they were.

“Those names aren’t just given out willy nilly,” Wilson said. “These were important people who made valid contributions to our community.”

Naming buildings or parks for people really does mean something and is a way to recognize people like Anderson who have been valuable contributors to the community, Wilson said.

Voting to rename the athletic complex for Anderson were Dietz, Wilson and Council Members Barb Burandt and Matt Westgaard.

Dave Anderson’s volunteer resume

Here is a summary of Dave Anderson’s volunteer work in Elk River.

•Elk River Park and Recreation Commission, 1987 to present.

•Sherburne County Park Commission, 1992 to 2002.

•Coached a variety of youth athletic teams, 1972 to 1997.

•Served as a Scout leader and assistant Scout master. Works with Eagle Scout candidates to identify potential projects and assists in the work on them.

•Founded adult women’s tennis league and adult co-ed soccer league and served as league president of adult men’s and women’s softball, adult men’s tennis, adult women’s tennis and adult men’s volleyball.

•Developed Orono Softball Complex, 1985 to 2002. Also managed the complex and concessions and did tournament scheduling.

•Woodland Trails Park volunteer, 1988 to present. Among the projects have been building and maintaining cross-country ski and winter walking trails and restoring native vegetation.

•Starting in 1993, organized volunteers who worked with organizations to build what at the time was one of only two biathlon ranges in Minnesota.

•Has restored and reconstructed native prairies in Elk River since the mid-1990s.

•Coordinates supplies and volunteers at Bailey Point Nature Preserve, the city’s newest park that opened in 2013.

•Is facilities co-chair for the upcoming Minnesota Hockey Day in Elk River.