Hopefully this will be a difficult decision for our city council and mayor.
The Crookston community is in the midst of a controversy concerning the development of an RV park at Castle Park. There has been much discussion between our city council, officials and many community citizens, which has also included speculation and conjecture about the project. I have been trying to gather as many facts as I can so that I can let my representatives know what my position is before the Crookston City Council makes a decision on the project.
The City’s council and officials are considering the possible economic stimulus from outside investment in Crookston and the potential of developing an area that is inviting to a relatively high demand RV camping market that will also bring to the community additional dollars. On the other side are concerns about the gifting of public park property to a private enterprise, the destruction of trees within the park and surrounding area, and the proximity of a RV park to a public space that has been specifically designed for small children to explore nature and expand their imagination, and which is a model for other cities planning similar developments.
I have taken a position that is opposed to this project as it is currently designed because I felt that I needed more information to take a truly informed position, and events are moving quickly. Since that time I have been on TV and the radio expressing my opposition to this project in its current plan because of its proximity to an area which we have specially designed for small children.
The following is the information I have gathered to this point. 1) American Crystal is seeking a place where they can house workers they bring in for the fall harvest. They have been seeking to employ man and wife teams who bring an RV or camper into the area for several weeks during the beet harvest. Even though some of these folks have been living in a private mobile home park the last few years, Crookston has limited capacity to meet the housing needs.
2) An RV park would host the American Crystal workers as well as people passing through the Crookston community. The RV park will be available for the short-term or seasonal RV rental market. We would hope that these folks would spend time and dollars in our community.
3) Castle Park is a wonderful asset to the entire Crookston community and has great potential to enhance the assets Crookston can offer to not only the local residents, but to the larger public. These three pieces of information have been mutually agreed upon in conversations in which I have been involved.
The following, however, reveals differences.
1) The RV park, as currently proposed, is in close proximity to an area in Castle Park where many people, including city officials, have worked together to develop an exploratory play area specially designed for small children. I am not opposed to sharing this space with those that would visit our community; in fact it may be a drawing point, and we welcome visitors. But we also take measures to protect ourselves from unnecessary risks. I think placing this RV park in such close proximity to an area we are encouraging small children to play unnecessarily increases the risks.
2) I recognize that locating the RV park in an inviting place is important to attract recreating clientele. While Castle Park is inviting, I do not think it is the place for an RV park because of the previous park developments. There is other available land for sale that would accommodate the needs of the RV park, is in close proximity to Castle Park so RV park residents can enjoy what we enjoy, and maintains a healthier distance from a developed children play area.
3) The location of the proposed RV park is on private land and on Castle Park acreage that the City would gift to the developer. Private property negotiations aside, I question the gifting of public park land for a private enterprise. There is private land available in close proximity to Castle Park and in other areas of the city that would be easily accessible and attractive to RV park visitors.
The question has been asked why this RV park project is a problem now when the City has planned a campground in Castle Park for many years. When I was more active in city activities, I too was an advocate of moving the Central Park campground to Castle Park. I saw Castle Park as an underutilized community resource that would allow access to natural areas and the river. As the dog park and the children’s play area were developed, I began to see Castle Park being utilized differently by the community. The campground issue fell off my radar. That is until now! An argument has been made that had the City been successful in their grant applications to develop a campground at Castle Park, it would already be under construction. However, the city has not received the grants, and the idea of a campground in Castle Park may no longer be wise. Much has changed in recent years with the children’s play area, the dog park, the development of nature trails, what appears to be increased utilization by more of the city residents and not just the Sampson Addition children, and what appears to be an expanding vision of how to develop Castle Park into a greater community resource. Secondly, the proposed private RV park is significantly larger than what was previously planned, and requires the deeding over of city park property. Once the land is deeded over to the private developer, options for that part of Castle Park are off the table, permanently!
The City Council is made up of elected officials who are willing to serve us, and we elect them to represent us in the Council Chambers. The city officials are paid to do their best for the City of Crookston. I thank all of them for their service and recognize they have challenging responsibilities and make difficult decisions. I hope, at least, the decision about this RV park project is a difficult decision. I urge them to give careful consideration to the concerns that have been brought before them. Many of these concerns cannot be cosmetically remedied with ordinances and planting a row of trees. Castle Park has the potential of being an even greater asset for Crookston. With respect to an immediate private development request, I believe there are other options available for the RV park that would meet the aesthetic requirements of such a park and still allow Castle Park to develop into what it might become to be enjoyed by both the Crookston residents and those who would consider visiting our community. Open and continued communications on all options is important to making this a positive decision the community can embrace.