Project will pave road, prevent erosion to St. Croix River
The Department of Natural Resources has approved a $200,000 grant for improvements at 205th Street leading to the Log House Landing in Scandia. The funds will come from the State Park Road Account Program.
Located in the part of Scandia known as Otisville, the landing gives boaters access to the St. Croix River between the National Park Service’s Osceola Landing and William O’Brien State Park. Both of those boat launches have large, paved parking lots.
The Log House Landing is different. From Highway 95 (St. Croix Trail) the landing is accessed by driving through quiet residential streets. The steep, unpaved road slopes down to a small unpaved parking lot and boat launch.
With a 100-feet change in elevation from the top of the road to the river, water flowing downhill gouges the soil, and gravel from the boat launch enters the river.
On a road tour in May 2013, Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District administrator Jim Shaver and City Engineer Ryan Goodman visited the landing with Scandia council members, city staff and residents.
Amid agreement that the current situation was unsustainable, different solutions were offered.
Lisa Schlingermann, who lives near the landing, suggested closing the boat launch to trailers. Instead, access from the parking lot would be limited to canoes and kayaks. Visitors would park, lift the canoe or kayak off the vehicle roof and carry it down to the river.
“Ten years ago, boats were half the size they are now. They don’t fit this road,” she said at the meeting.
Council members Chris Ness and Dan Lee recommended better management and enforcement of rules.
Shaver detailed a paving and erosion repair project that would trap stormwater halfway down and store it in an infiltration basin. That solution could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said.
Now, a year later, a good chunk of the money has become available.
“This is great news,” Shaver said of the DNR grant.
The current project estimate is $400,000. Surface improvements on 205th Street from Quinell Avenue to the river include paving, curb and gutter. Boat launch area improvements include a concrete ramp, paved access to the ramp and retaining walls to prevent erosion.
Water quality improvements include erosion blankets, planting of native seeds and infiltration basins to capture storm water.
A schedule has not been set, but construction will likely begin in late 2014 or early 2015.
In a phone conversation this week, Scandia Mayor Randall Simonson said that after the May 2013 road tour, the council discussed the options presented, including closing the ramp to boat trailers.
In addition to erosion concerns, the city was faced with high maintenance costs, replacing gravel that continued to wash into the river.
“For us it was an opportunity to look at all the possibilities,” he said. “We decided we want to keep it open. So we found this program and applied for a grant.”
Schlingermann says it’s a good thing the erosion problem will be solved, to keep sand from entering the river and to protect the nearby trout stream.
“After a storm, water goes right into that trout stream,” she said.
And she has resigned herself to continued use of the boat launch, which has been open to the public for more than half a century.
“I realized it was not going to be possible to close it to boats,” she said. “It’s advertised. It’s been there for years. The National Park Service uses it for emergency vehicles. And it’s the only public access for the people of Scandia,” she said.
But she has concerns. Because of the small parking lot, boaters park on 205th Street. Two years ago the city posted “No Parking” signs on one side of the street, but enforcement is an issue.
The lack of police presence means residents must notify the police when several cars are violating the parking rule, she said, and over the years, there have been issues with partying.
Free campsites on the St. Croix make the problem worse.
“People can park there all night. They stay two, three days, even a week. Parking and camping are free. Dumping garbage is free,” she said.
Because National Park Service employees have no authority to enforce rules on land, Schlingermann said, Scandia needs to take more responbsibility.
“It has become an unsightly place,” she said.
Last year she convinced the city to bring in a portable toilet, and she would like to see recycling bins for beer and pop cans.
“I want people to enjoy the river,” she concluded, “but they have to look at it as a unique place, not just another place to launch a boat.”