Problems at Gladstone's Prairie Rose: Campers concerned they'll be kicked outVoters will decide June 12 to keep or dissolve the Gladstone Park District Board, but no one seems to know what that will mean for the people parking their campers at Prairie Rose Park.
By: By Betsy Simon, The Dickinson Press
Voters will decide June 12 to keep or dissolve the Gladstone Park District Board, but no one seems to know what that will mean for the people parking their campers at Prairie Rose Park.
Park Board members told campers during a Sunday meeting that their fate could be in the hands of the voters on June 12, but councilman Darcy Fossum and Mayor Kurt Martin were unaware the measure was even on the ballot when asked Monday.
“I guess it will go before the voters then, but I’m not sure it was done correctly,” Fossum said. “I don’t think anyone is saying that they’ll kick the campers out though, even if the board dissolves. It’s not just the campers who are the issue.”
Three Park Board members met Sunday at the park and campers talked about their concerns about the rumored compromise to their living arrangements.
Martin also could not say what would happen to the campers if voters approve to dissolve the board.
“This was started by a citizen, not the council,” Martin said. “There have been issues that citizens have had and they’ve been coming to the council for help instead of the parks board. The last couple of council meetings when the Park Board has been brought up I think it’s been unfair because it’s been a one-sided discussion.”
He didn’t know if finances were among the public’s concerns.
“I guess I haven’t heard of money really being an issue, but I think there are other issues people have, like staffing and who can take care of it,” he said.
Five residents, including Karen Terrill, began circulating the petition March 28 to get a measure on the ballot to ask for voter approval to dissolve the Board. Forty-three signatures were collected.
The Board has hired a lawyer and they will meet Wednesday. There is another meeting with the campers at 6 p.m. on Sunday at the campground.
Martin didn’t know about last Sunday’s meeting, but said residents have come to council meetings in favor of dissolving the board.
Terrill, who served on the park board for four years before vacating her position a year ago, said there have been discussions for a while about dissolving the board and she thinks there is a good chance the measure will pass.
“I quit being president about a year ago, but I still would have done this even if I was president,” she said of the petition. “Being on the board is 100 percent volunteer time and I believe it is too much for a few people to handle.”
Terrill said she did not speak to Board members about her concerns because the board’s meeting times and locations are not consistent.
“There are campers that have been sitting there for a year,” she said, adding “It looks trashy.
She said people will not send their children there because there are so many unknown people.
There are 17 lots in the park with 16 belonging to the Park District. The city owns the other.
After Sunday’s meeting, the group of about 10 camp residents got together to make sure their living arrangements complied with regulations — such as checking the distance between RVs.
The cost to park a camper at Prairie Rose Park is $20 per night, $100 a week and $350 per month. The costs are halved if someone is staying in a tent and tenants say the prices are very reasonable.
Bismarck resident and temporary Prairie Rose Park tenant Joe Silveria said during the meeting that he has called around and other rental sites are hard to find, or booked up months in advance.
“We need to get compliant,” he said, adding it’s the board’s responsibility to keep the grass cut, but campers are willing to do what it takes to keep their “homes.” They also talked about ways to legally be able to vote during the June 12 primary.
As of Sunday, there were 11 campers in the park, some with more than one occupant. Most of them are oil men from out of the area.
Park Board President Lillian Bondell found out about the petition a week ago and said it shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
“People have been after the Park Board pretty much since we got started, so I think this is more about a vendetta against the Park Board,” she said.
An informational letter about the park has been sent to residents, Board Secretary Erin McGahuey said.
“The park is a good thing for Gladstone,” she said. “It makes us look like we welcome people, but it doesn’t at all mention the petition or city council.”