New lift station, bathhouse and full sewer hookups are most expensive items, but City would likely fund the bathhouse to make local match more attractive

    While there were high-fives all around when City of Crookston and Red Lake River Corridor Enhancement Joint Powers Board learned that the Greater Minnesota Parks & Trails Commission has awarded approximately $200,000 in its 2019 funding cycle to go toward safer, improved and expanded river and canoe accesses in and around Crookston and increased river-related signage, the biggest ticket item in Crookston’s corridor enhancement application, an expanded campground in Central Park, was not funded.

    But there’s every reason to try again in the next round of funding, City Administrator Shannon Stassen told the city council’s Ways & Means Committee this week. “Talking to the (Greater Minnesota Parks & Trails Commission), they said we had a strong application, and they said to resubmit things that were not funded and to potentially add things,” Stassen said. “The thing with them is, once they start funding a project they want to see it through all the way to it becoming a premier destination. It’s kind of like, ‘Here’s $200,000 to get started, but keep submitting because we think you have a great project here.’”

    So all signs are pointing toward an application for funding in 2020 being submitted by the deadline at the end of next month, with, again, the centerpiece of the proposal being a much larger and enhanced campground in Central Park.

    The new application wouldn’t be identical to the previous one, Stassen said. For one thing, it would likely be reduced from the original 48 slots to somewhere in the lower 40s in order to leave room in Central Park for events such as the rodeo held there last fall, and there’s always the Crookston Classic Cruisers Run to the Park during Ox Cart Days.

    The most expensive item is likely a new bathhouse, and with previous indications being that the GMPTC isn’t super keen on funding bathhouses, Stassen said it might be wise for the City to fund its own new bathhouse, which would amount to an ideal local funding match. No matter who pays, he said a new bathhouse must be part of any new campground project if City leaders hope it gets used.

    “Other towns along the corridor are in better shape with their campgrounds; it’s our campground and bathhouse that leave something to be desired,” Stassen said. “If you’re looking at a system (of amenities) along a river corridor, you don’t want any weak links in that system.

    “With us, the word is out on our bathhouse, it’s just not up to par,” he continued, adding that a new one would cost around $400,000.

    As was the case the first time the council discussed the 2019 funding proposal, whether to have full sewer hookups for campers and RVs in Central Park is a popular discussion topic. Right now, the campground is considered “primitive,” with only electricity provided. If full hookups are seen as the way to go, Public Works Director Pat Kelly said the new lift station would have to go in first, and that’s a spendy proposition as well.

    While there’s a strong possibility that the 2020 funding proposal will include a mix of camping slots with full sewer hookups along with some that have underground tanks that the City would have to pump, it’s apparent that there are council members who feel that if the City is going to dramatically upgrade its campground in Central Park, it needs to be “done right,” meaning it offers lots of slots with full hookups, or even all of the slots.

    Stassen reminded everyone that the target audience would be campers who stay for a weekend, a long weekend or a vacation in Central Park, and not come and set up for the whole summer, like, say, at Polk County Park on Maple Lake. The Central Park campground would likely have a two-week maximum stay.

    Full hookups are the key, Ward 5 Council Member Dale Stainbrook says. “East Grand Forks, they’re full, and people ask about the next closest one, and that’s Crookston,” he said. “But they’re not interested in coming here because of (the lack of) hookups.”

    Ward 1 Council Member Jake Fee said he’d rather see fewer camper stalls if it meant they had full hookups. “I know we’re not looking for long-term people, but those tanks can fill up fast,” he said.

    Parks & Recreation Director Scott Riopelle said the rule of thumb for underground holding tanks is to account for 100 gallons of water and/or sewage per day. “You can look at putting them in, but then we have to pump them out,” he said. There’s also a concern, Riopelle added, about the tanks staying in the ground, given that Central Park is a natural spillway when the Red Lake River level reaches around 20 feet.

    Stassen said the council will have to make a decision on the details of the 2020 application by the middle of July in order to make the application deadline.