Flooding in the spring is one thing, he says, but in the fall, too?
While it’s not entirely unusual for Crookston’s Central Park to be inundated by the Red Lake River during significant spring melts of the snowpack and subsequent runoff, the park flooding at other times of the year is definitely a rare occurrence.
But the park – with no levees, it’s essentially a natural spillway for the river – is always vulnerable if an extremely high amount of precipitation falls in Crookston or in the Red River Basin over an extended period of time. It only takes a river level in the 19.5 foot range to fill the park.
So is that the best place to put a greatly expanded RV campground featuring all kinds of new amenities? That’s what At Large Crookston City Council Member Tom Vedbraaten said he’s heard from some constituents since people in town for the sugar beet harvest camping in the park’s primitive campground facilities had to be evacuated last week after weeks of significant rains followed by a snowstorm had Red Lake River crest projections flirting with 20 feet. The campers, trailers and other vehicles were relocated to Town Square, and within a couple days, Central Park did indeed flood when the river topped 19 feet. All of the vehicles currently remain at Town Square, as it takes a while for the water in the park to recede and/or soak in.
Crookston leaders for several years, through their membership in the Red Lake River Corridor Enhancement Group, have sought funding through the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission for a variety of river-related amenities in and just outside of the community. While funding was awarded around two years ago for river access improvements, signage and other enhancements – work is commencing on those projects soon – the big prize was always receiving funding for an RV campground in Central Park featuring full electrical and sewer hookups for around 40 RVs. Last year, more than $1 million was awarded for the project, with the City of Crookston providing a local match of approximately $400,000 that would go toward the construction of an emergency shelter/bath house structure in the park.
Although those who would be most involved in the project have said that the RV campground would be designed in a way that would allow for various infrastructure and other components to be removed or otherwise protected from river water that spills into the park – the shelter/bath house would be constructed on higher ground – all one had to do to see what could go wrong was look to East Grand Forks, where high water from the rising Red River over the weekend flooded that city’s campground along the river, the Red River Recreation Area, and swamped some big RVs in the process.
“It floods in the spring, but now it does in the fall, too,” Vedbraaten said of the Central Park. “If we’re going to spend that kind of money on a campground, (why don’t we) put it somewhere where it doesn’t flood. Put it in a place that you can (always) use.”
Many years ago, a conceptual plan that envisioned a large RV park along Polk County Highway 11 coming into Crookston from the east was eventually abandoned when detractors said it would eventually become an eyesore. At the time, several RV’ers or those experienced in the industry said any RV campground in Crookston needed to be closer to the river. Subsequently, a few years ago, a developer proposed putting an RV campground in a portion of Castle Park, but an enthusiastic protest by neighborhood residents living nearby and Castle Park proponents caused the city council to back away from the proposed project.