Is there a project that would beautify Minot, solve a county problem and encourage others to do the same? A Minot man believes he has discovered just such an endeavor.
It's an ambitious undertaking, and in the early planning stages, but the intriguing idea just might accomplish all of the above.
The plan calls for the filling in of a portion of a dead river loop that is bordered by Burdick Expressway on the south and Roosevelt Park on the east. That portion of the Souris River was long ago cut off from the main river channel by a channelization project designed to improve the flow of the river through Minot.
To the right of this sign marking the southern entrance to Eastwood Park is a portion of the Souris River that was cut off from the main river channel many years ago. A Minot man would like to see the area reclaimed.
Today the dead loop is little more than a catch basin that often becomes a stagnant, algae covered pond by mid-summer. Like many other dead river loops within the city, it is unsightly and serves little purpose.
"My plan is to fill in a portion of that dead loop. A large storm drain would be installed to handle runoff that normally enters it," said Duane Brekke, Minot, the man who has begun shopping his plan to city leaders. "The trees would be felled and cleared by those needing firewood for use or for sale. Additional land on the north side of the river would be acquired."
If the project comes to fruition, a section of river that is generally considered to be more of an eyesore than a community asset would be transformed into a park-like setting. Brekke envisions a walkway along the perimeter of the project, complete with blooming flowers and access to Roosevelt Park immediately across the river. He has another idea too.
"I'm exploring a plan to move the (Ward County) Historical Society from the State Fairgrounds to the new area," said Brekke. "Perhaps the move could be paid for by state dollars which would otherwise be used for legal fees if the Historical Society meets the State Fair in court."
The Historical Society was served with an eviction notice by the State Fair earlier this week. The fair board wants the Historical Society to move their buildings and displays off the fairgrounds to make room for a possible future building project. The Historical Society contends they have a contractual right to remain at their location.
"We don't find a move practical at all," said Bruce Brooks, Ward County Historical Society treasurer. "What we had with Mr. Brekke was a discussion, not an offer."
The idea of moving Historical Society properties to newly reclaimed land near Roosevelt Park was discussed at a Historical Society board meeting this past week.
"Basically, we don't think we'll have to move and the other thing is, it is way too indefinite," said Brooks. "It depends on far too many things."
The filling in of the river loop, and the acquisition of some vacant land inside the loop could result in nearly four acres of useable land. According to Brekke, that's a larger area than what the Historical Society is situated on at the fairgrounds.
Although several storm drains lead into it, the river loop portion of the proposed project has no outlet. The loop is a holding pond and the source of water for irrigating Corbett Field on the opposite side of Burdick Expressway. Brekke's plan calls for installing a large storm drain along the path of the riverbed, something engineers agree would be adequate to handle usual flows leading into the current channel.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must be consulted regarding any proposed changes to the Souris River. However, it is believed the Corps does not have jurisdiction over dead river loops that are no longer part of the river proper. That means one less obstacle to overcome if the project proceeds.
Brekke said he initially came up with the river loop project when he was seeking a location to construct apartment buildings. That plan was nixed when it was learned foundations cannot be constructed over a river bed. Undeterred and always looking to stay active, Brekke switched gears from personal to community project.
The long-time Minoter owns a former automotive dealership building near the entrance to Roosevelt Park. He has converted that building into several business offices. In return for his efforts on what he hopes will be a successful renovation of a dead river loop and a completely new look along a well-used roadway within Minot, the businessman would like the city's cooperation elsewhere.
"I would like in return for the city to lease to me the property east of my business. That property is just sitting there," said Brekke. "Last year I pushed snow onto it and the city made me spend money to take it off. It melted and ran into the river anyway. There's no logic."
An engineer who measured the site of the project estimates it will take nearly 20,000 cubic yards of compacted fill to bring the dead river loop up to grade. Cost estimates for the project have not yet been completed.