One year after the worst flood to ever hit Minot, the community is celebrating the re-opening of Oak Park.
Local, state and federal officials and the Minot community gathered Friday in the park to commemorate the recovery efforts in Minot and area on the first anniversary of the Souris River flood.
David Waind, city manager and emcee for the first portion of the program, and a list of speakers including Minot mayor Curt Zimbelman, Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., and Deanne Criswell of FEMA thanked the many residents, the National Guard, numerous agencies, countless volunteers and others who have lent a hand and continue to lend a hand to the recovery of Minot and the area.
Children play in the splash pad at Minot’s Oak Park on Friday when the park and its splash pad officially re-opened after last year’s Souris River flood devastated the area.
Minot residents Charlane Bertsch and Mary Swafford attended the program in Oak Park.
"I've walked many miles in this park and it's good to be coming back. It's a wonderful park," she said.
"We've always enjoyed the park," Swafford said.
Speakers referred to Oak Park's selection last fall after a nationwide vote of being named "America's Favorite Park" and the park was awarded a $100,000 grant through a Coca-Cola program. The money was used to restore the park's splash pad, picnic shelters, walking trails, playground and sand volleyball court.
Minot's Roosevelt Park now is in the running for the "America's Favorite Park" title and Mona Mertz, Coca-Cola district manager, urged people to vote for it. People can vote by visiting (LivePositively.com/parks).
North Dakota's electric cooperatives and other volunteers from across the state also did clean-up, rewiring and rebuilding at Oak Park.
"Today marks the first anniversary of the record-breaking flood of 2011, and I want to thank each and every one of you. And I honestly mean that from the bottom of my heart as will all of the folks that will be speaking here today," said Waind.
"Folks who have come to our community to provide assistance our regional, state, federal partners to each of you we want to say thank you. The residents of Minot thank you. We have made it a long way in that one-year period, and we have a long ways to go," he said.
Waind said the various local boards, including Ward County board, City of Minot, Minot Park Board, Minot School Board, have been part of this effort.
"We want to thank each one of you for all that you have done in the course of this past year and all the employees who have been part of that year," Waind said.
"For me, getting to this point in our recovery process, just one year after the Mouse River left a permanent mark on more than 11,000 residents, 4,100 homes and 200 businesses in the City of Minot is nothing short of amazing," said Zimbelman.
"Words will never be able to accurately describe the damage, the heartache or the immense challenge that this disaster brought our residents. At the same time words will never be able to describe our heartfelt thanks to the numerous volunteers who gutted out or repaired damaged homes, the kindness neighbors from all over our community showed by opening up their homes to take in evacuees and the high level of support from our regional and federal partners in this recovery.
"While Minot remains in the middle of what is likely to be years of recovery, I can look back 12 months since June 22, 2011, (it) fills me with hope and optimism that our best days remain ahead of us," Zimbelman said.
After Zimbelman's comments, the audience stood up, giving him a round of applause.
"What a wonderful day this is," said Ron Merritt, director of parks for the Minot Park District, taking over as emcee for the second portion of the program.
"I had a hard time believing this day would ever come a few months ago so what a wonderful day this is and we're all excited to open this park back up and get things moving again, and feel like things are more like normal in Minot," he said.
Ron Bieri, president of the Minot Park Board through the disaster who just left the board this week, was brief, saying "Thank you."
He said if he would attempt to thank all the individuals and organizations who helped the park district that he would miss someone.
"We can't thank you enough for what you've done for us," Bieri added.
However, he pointed out one special group fellow park board commissioners, and Merritt and other staff members.
"If it wasn't for those people working long, long hard hours at jobs they're not used to doing, this park wouldn't look like it does today and the park district wouldn't be recovering the way it is. So to our staff thank you to all of you who have helped in so many, many ways," Bieri said.
Ken Kitzman, with the Minot Area Recovery Fund, presented Bieri with a plaque, with an enscription written by Grace Fisher of Minot regarding the flood and the recovery efforts. The plaque was placed on a pedestal along a walkway leading to the splash pad area.
As the final activity, Merritt, flanked by Minot Area Chamber of Commerce ambassadors, cut agiant ribbon for the re-opening of Oak Park and the opening of the splash pad where children were waiting to be among the first to run through its water on the sunny, warm afternoon.
The Oak Park celebration continues today with more events planned. See today's Minot Daily News Calendar of Events for details.