Oak Park will officially be back and open for public enjoyment a full one year after it was flooded last summer and people are invited to help celebrate.
There will be a commemorative event on Friday over the noon hour along with an all-day celebration on Saturday in the park.
The flood hit Oak Park hard, with the water reaching almost up to the shingles on the picnic shelters, said director of parks Ron Merritt. There was also damage to the restrooms, the maintenance shed, the splash pad shed, and the shed at Camp Owetti, he added.
Oak Park was damaged in last summer’s flood, but has recovered and will soon be officially reopened for all to enjoy. A commemorative event on Friday and a family-oriented celebration on Saturday are planned for the first anniversary of the 2011 flood. It will be a weekend of hope during the summer of hope.
"We're fast tracking on putting the park back together and bid out the splash pad and the nearby restroom and the wiring," Merritt noted.
ServiceMaster was hired to clean, dry, and sterilize the buildings, and the electrical pedestals were also bid out and rewired, Merritt said. The park district also hired a contractor to remove the silt, he added, and the grass has been seeded and is growing.
Merritt said they had all kinds of groups helping, too. North Dakota Electrical Cooperatives, Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, Burdick Job Corps, Sertoma Club, Minot Area Community Foundation, Minot Public Schools, Power of the Purse/Donate 360, the Oakaholics, and the Rotary Club, to name some but not all, helped to get Oak Park back in working order.
Oak Park has made almost a full recovery from the flood, Merritt said, except for Camp Owetti, the Girl Scout camp on the park grounds.
"We don't have a good plan for what to do with that yet," he said.
The restroom in the back of Oak Park might be bid out, Merritt also said. For now, all they have to do is wait for the grass to grow, he added, but they may look at doing a new project in the future, like redoing the band shelter or constructing a three-season shelter.
"But we have to get through this summer first," Merritt said.
The park voted as America's Favorite Park has come a long way since last summer's disastrous flood.
"There was garbage and debris everywhere, but the cleanup last fall made a huge difference," Merritt said. "The trees still look good and the park looks pretty much the same as it did. It looks good."
The biggest challenge in Oak Park's recovery was knowing where to start and putting a plan together, Merritt said. Oak Park was moved up to the top of the park district's priority list and lots of other people helped, he added. "It will be a great feeling when we can say, 'Come to the park and enjoy it.' The staff and board members are really excited," Merritt said about the weekend's reopening celebration.
The reopening of Oak Park will start with an hour-long program on Friday, June 22, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in Oak Park. There will be a ribbon-cutting, brief remarks from invited guests, and a moment of silence.
"At the time the sirens went off, we'll have the ceremony," Merritt said. "We're hoping the governor will be there and we could see Kent Conrad or Rick Berg or John Hoeven." A plaque has also been made, he added, and they're working on a monument for the community to remember the 2011 flood that will come at a later time.
Merritt said they're hoping to get the word out that they've accomplished what they set out to do with this weekend's celebration. "It's a sense of victory, a sense that we can get through it and we did. We can get (the park) rebuilt. It'll take time and money, but we can get it done." He also said the celebration will give people a feeling of getting back to normal after a big disaster.
The park celebration will continue on Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with fun geared toward families. There will be a free lunch provided for the first 2,000 people, games, and bouncy houses for the children. A complete list of events taking place can be found at (www.minotrecoveryinfo.com) or (www.centerforcommunitygiving.com).
"Saturday is a celebration for families to come and enjoy the park," Merritt said. "We're very thankful for the volunteers. It's been wonderful."
Oak Park was purchased by the park district 100 years ago this summer, a news release said, and is the largest park in Minot.
The idea for the celebration of Oak Park's reopening came from wanting to pair last summer's tragic event with something positive, Merritt remarked. "It will be a good feeling to look back on the bad things and say it's turned into something good for the community," he added.
Merritt said he doesn't know if there will be commemorative and celebratory events on each anniversary of the 2011 flood. There will, however, be a celebratory event for Roosevelt Park and Zoo when they're ready. If everything falls into place, Merritt added, the zoo will be ready to open next spring or possibly part of it will open this fall.
The zoo staff is also getting ready to move into the new zoo building soon, Merritt said, so there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony for that.
"We'll keep having events like that every time we reach a victory."