Genereux expects as many as 100 to attend, after around 10 attend first one

    As more details on the actual size and look of the proposed RV park in a portion of Castle Park come together, the Crookston City Council wants to give citizens with questions or concerns about the project a second chance to speak up.   

    An initial public forum last week attracted around 10 people, most of whom live near Castle Park in Sampson's Addition and would prefer that the RV park be located somewhere else. But now that the issue has become possibly the hottest topic making the rounds in the community, Mayor Dave Genereux said Monday evening, at a city council Ways & Means Committee meeting, that he expects around 60 or maybe as many as 100 people to attend and fill the council chambers at city hall.  

    The actual date and time of the meeting has not yet been set. But what is likely to happen is that once the design and scope of the proposed RV park comes into more focus in the coming days, the Ways & Means Committee will meet to get a better feel for the project. Then, sometime after that meeting, a public forum will be held, City Administrator Shannon Stassen said.   

    The RV park was not on the agendas Monday evening for the council or committee meeting. But Ward 3 Council Member Gary Willhite, who was out of town and unable to attend last week's public forum, brought up the topic during the roundtable discussion that typically wraps up each Ways & Means Committee meeting. Willhite said he'd seen a media outlet describe the RV park as a "man camp," similar to what is often referred to in North Dakota's oil patch, so he was looking for some clarification on the project.     

    It's not a man camp, Willhite was told. What farmer and developer Jeremy Jennen is proposing, with financial backing from American Crystal Sugar, is an RV park with 50 to 70 slots that, during the sugar beet piling campaign in the fall, would house temporary Crystal workers. During the warmer, tourism-filled months, it would be home to families on vacation or nature enthusiasts looking for a place to camp. Last week, Jennen said once the utility work is factored in along with the construction of restrooms and a bathhouse, it'll be around a $1 million project.    

    Jennen operates a similar RV park in Hillsboro, N.D., also home to an American Crystal Sugar factory. He's hoping to get 30 or so slots ready by fall for temporary Crystal workers to utilize during this year's sugar beet harvest.

Gathering details   

    Stassen said Monday's he's researching various covenants and other restrictions the city could put in place in the campground, such as what specifically defines an RV, and what buffer zones between the campground and the rest of Castle Park would be best, such as tree lines, etc. Stassen said there is ample information available for the council to refer to as it seeks to regulate the development.   

    The city for years has been seeking to move its primary campground out of flood-prone Central Park. State grants have been sought, without success, for a campground in Castle Park with 30 to 40 slots and no temporary worker component. Jennen contacted the city several months ago and has been working primarily with CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth ever since.    

    During those discussions, the campground has grown in size but it's also shifted outside the Castle Park boundary, with around three acres of privately owned land along College Avenue now part of the campground. As a result, Hoiseth said, around three acres of the 20-acre park would be used for the RV park.   

    Several council members and officials around the table Monday indicated they'd received numerous calls and had several other conversations in recent days, and there is, apparently, abundant opposition to the project being located in any portion of Castle Park, home to a dog park, new playground and natural play space.   

    "People think the whole park is going to close down, but then you tell them it's only three acres and it starts to make some sense to them," At Large Council Member Wayne Melbye said. "But there's a lot of yip-yap that goes around."   

    It was Melbye who first suggested hosting a second forum, which was embraced by everyone around the table. "Then you can say you gave people more than one chance to speak up," he said.   

    Ward 5 Council Member Dale Stainbrook said he's eager to see a master plan of the RV park, for his own perusal as well as those who aren't fans of the project. "People think we're catering to Crystal; I'm telling them if it weren't for Crystal this wouldn't be happening at all," Stainbrook said. "But I'm also telling them Crystal is only using a small part of it."   

    Stassen said people are afraid that lots of trees are going to be bulldozed, but, he said, only small trees will be removed. People are also apparently concerned about the nearby lift station being able to handle the waste from all the RVs, but Public Works Director Pat Kelly said Monday that will not be a problem.   

    Ward 1 Council Member Tom Jorgens said continuing the conversation with Crookston citizens is about dispelling rumors and misconceptions, and educating everyone as the details of the proposed project come together. "There are emotional reactions about the type of people who people think will be staying there, and safety being compromised in Castle Park," Jorgens said. "But I think we're dealing with a pretty straightforward developer who's a straight-shooting guy, who oversees a pretty nice place in Hillsboro."   

    Genereux said that he and the council "work for the people" and, therefore, the people need ample opportunity to speak up. "It's about being respectful to concerns, and then responding to them with accurate information," he said.