It would feature 45 RV slots with full hook-ups; Minnesota Legislature in 2019 has final say

    The City of Crookston’s almost $1.4 million pursuit of a dramatically expanded RV campground in Central Park has cleared a major hurdle, with the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission recommending full funding of Crookston’s grant request, as part of its membership in the Red Lake River Corridor Enhancement Group with six area cities and three counties.

    City Administrator Shannon Stassen says the recommendation for funding will go to the Minnesota Legislature in 2019, which would make the final determination on funding. “Past practice has been to approve the Commission’s recommendations, however,” Stassen said in an email.

    The total amount of funding recommended by the GMRPTC is $1,491,800. Smaller-scale Red Lake River Corridor Enhancement initiatives proposed by member cities Thief River Falls, Red Lake Falls and East Grand Forks are also recommended by the Commission for funding, but the vast majority of the dollars are for the expanded campground in Central Park here.

    Asked about a potential timeline, assuming approval during the 2019 legislative session, Stassen said any contracts wouldn’t be signed until late summer 2019 at the earliest. Most likely, he said, work would commence in the summer of 2020. Events and activities typically held in Central Park such as Night 2 Unite, Ox Cart Days, Classic Cruisers Run to the Park and Wojo’s Rodeo would likely be able to take place in Central Park without issue in 2019, Stassen said.

    He added that he’s anticipating the arrival of a letter from the Commission Friday that further details the recommendation for funding.
    
The project

    The Crookston City Council green-lighted the pursuit of the grant last summer. The estimated project cost is $1.382 million. Included in that cost is $410,000 for roadways and RV gravel pads, $110,000 for water main and related services, $350,000 for a lift station/sanitary sewer, $62,000 for electrical services, and $450,000 for a new bathhouse/storm shelter. The City’s match is $345,000, which was previously earmarked to go toward the construction of the bathhouse/storm shelter. City Finance Director Angel Weasner previously indicated that the City’s match would be borrowed from the Municipal Land and Building Fund and paid back over time.

    The most recent proposed layout for the RV campground includes 45 RV slots with full sewer, water and electrical hookups. The campground would be designed in a fashion that minimizes the impact of Central Park being inundated by water from the Red Lake River when the river level reaches the 19-20 foot range.

    The GMRPTC last year funded various Red Lake River Corridor Joint Powers Board requests, with the bulk totaling around $200,000 for Crookston to improve safety and enhance river and canoe access points in and around Crookston. A similar version of the expanded RV campground in Central Park was also submitted for funding by the City in 2017 but was not funded. Stassen said at the time that the Commission continued to be a big fan of the collaboration among Red Lake River Corridor Group members, and that the Commission in the future would likely look kindly upon Crookston’s campground proposal because the current, primitive camping amenities in Central Park are seen as a weak link along the corridor, especially compared to campgrounds in East Grand Forks and Thief River Falls.

    The plan as of now would be to make the RV slots in Central Park available for maximum two-week stays, which is similar to the model in the campground along the greenway in East Grand Forks. But, also similar to East Grand Forks, Stassen said during discussions last summer, exceptions could potentially be made during late camping season and harvest time.

    The idea behind the push for the greatly expanded campground in Central Park is that the people who come to camp will spend money at various Crookston businesses, and they will also increase activity along and on the Red Lake River.

    Given Crookston’s seemingly greater and more immediate needs for Red Lake River enhancements, the other members of the river corridor group have been more than willing to let Crookston take the lead early on and seek funding for the bigger-ticket, larger-scope projects.

    Mayor Wayne Melbye said previously that, if the campground was funded at some point, a committee should be formed that has experienced RV’ers among its members to ensure that the “absolute best” campground is constructed.

Positivity

    Stassen said the GMRPTC “heaped praise” on the Red Lake River Corridor Enhancement Group during a phone conversation, saying the collaboration involving a half-dozen cities, a trio of counties, a watershed district, public health, chambers of commerce, CVBs and U of M Extension was unique in the entire state of Minnesota. He added that the Commission plans to highlight the river corridor enhancement group statewide “as a model of communities putting aside competitiveness and working toward a common goal.”

    Stassen singled out Linda Kingery, director of the Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, saying she’s been a “driving force” in the effort for years. He also said intern Katie Svitavsky was instrumental in coordinating and developing the final grant application.