The Conservation and Outdoor Skills Park at the State Fairgrounds in Minot didn't escape the floodwater this summer, but it didn't suffer a great deal of damage either. Fortunately, the buildings at the facility were basic wood and log-type structures that were neither insulated nor Sheetrocked.
"They are not typical house construction. We were able to salvage pretty much everything. Our buildings didn't shift or move. We were lucky," said Greg Gullickson, North Dakota Game and Fish Department outreach biologist in Minot.
It is the Game and Fish Department that operates the park, a very popular attraction during the North Dakota State Fair. In addition, other events are held at the facility, which is open for fishing during the summer months.
Kim Fundingsland/MDN - - The Conservation and Outdoor Skills Park at the State Fairgrounds in Minot did not escape June flooding of the Souris River. The North Dakota Game and Fish Department plans to make improvements to the park this fall.
Kim Fundingsland/MDN - - Although some of the fencing was damaged and the area was coated with mud, damage to structures at the Conservation and Skills Park was somewhat less than expected.
"It's an excellent urban fishery. It's not just a nine-day park," Gullickson said. "Unfortunately we've had to close it to fishing now because we're not sure what's in the water and what the fish are doing. We have debris to clean up in the lake."
What washed into the Outdoor Skills Park pond during recent flooding is unknown. Gullickson said he knows some northern pike were carried in by Souris River water but he is also concerned about other unknowns, such as chemicals, that might have entered the pond as well. The down time has some benefits though: The park is about to undergo a facelift.
"We're going to expand it a little bit and take on a little more. We'll do a number of things," said Greg Power, Game & Fish fisheries division chief. "While we're at it we're going to clean up the water and re-slope the shoreline to make it more user friendly."
Gullickson described the current slope of the banks, nearly 45 degrees, as nasty. It might be a problem waiting to happen.
"You can get six feet down real quick. We've yet to have an incident of anyone falling in," Gullickson said. "The flood was devastating, but this gives us a chance to change our floorplan. It's an opportunity to make the shooting range better and change the layout to make it more user friendly. We're looking at adding on to the dock, adding covered canopies."
Work on the pond is expected to get started in early September. In addition to making the slope of the banks more user-friendly, it is hoped that landscaping can get under way once the heavy equipment operators finish their work.
Right now the grassy areas of the park remain coated in mud carried by floodwaters. That is one of the reasons the annual Youth Wildlife Festival, which is usually hosted at the park, is being moved to Maysa Arena's upper parking lot on Thursday.
Buildings at the Conservation and Outdoors Skills Park have already been power-washed to rid them of leftover grime from the Souris River. A dozen volunteers from Minot's chapter of Delta Waterfowl provided much-needed help.
Gullickson said the buildings are ready for use once other work at the grounds is completed. The buildings house various wildlife displays and skills challenges during major events. Fish species stocked into the pond in the past have included bluegill, rainbow trout, catfish, perch and bass. It is a catch-and-release fishery.