American Crystal's need for temporary workforce housing driving push to get something done with a private developer

    Turns out, the City of Crookston might not need a big state grant to make a new campground/RV park a reality after all.   

   The city has applied without success on multiple occasions to secure a state DNR grant, through the Legacy Fund, totaling several hundred thousand dollars, with the most expensive piece being a new city campground in Castle Park that would essentially replace Central Park as the city's official campground. The grant has been part of a larger redevelopment project for Castle Park, which, even without the grant, is getting new life at the corner of Sampson's Addition, with a new playground, dog park and nature play space for children.   

    But CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth told his board of directors this week that a private developer is interested in making a new campground/RV park a reality in Crookston. Castle Park is a possible location but other potential locations in the community are in play as well, he said. 

    The driving force behind the project's new momentum? American Crystal Sugar's need from time to time for a place that temporary workers can call home, Hoiseth said.   

    "We're getting closer on this; things are moving along at a very good pace," Hoiseth said. "At this point, it's about securing the location."   

    Although there are many details to hammer out, it appears a new campground would have 50 to 60 slots with "full hook-ups," meaning more than just electricity. "It's a significant investment," Hoiseth said. "We're trying to get it done with a private developer."   

    While the demand for local camping sites ebbs and flows throughout the year, Hoiseth said that during Ox Cart Days in 2013, "30 to 40" campers and other RVs had to be turned away because Central Park was at capacity and there was nowhere else for them to go. While some sort of camping presence could remain in Central Park, mostly because it's a popular spot during the Crookston Classic Cruisers Run to the Park during Ox Cart Days, the city has long been seeking a newer location for a larger campground that isn't prone to flooding each year like Central Park is.   

    "We need to keep Central Park usable, but if we can make this happen with a private developer we don't necessarily want to get into competition with private interests," Hoiseth said, adding that a way to remedy that might be pricing the camper lots in Central Park slightly higher than the lots in the new campground, and pointing interested campers toward the privately run lot if Central Park is full.   

    "This is a market we want to capture and full hook-ups are an important amenity," he continued. "People are mobile and they want access to the water, the prairie, birding opportunities and recreation our area has to offer. But Crystal has a need for this, too, for workforce housing on a temporary basis and that's the lead driver of this whole thing right now."   

    If the campground becomes reality, Hoiseth said it will be set up to operate year-round, and it's likely that a certain number of spots would be set aside at certain times of the year for temporary workers.