North Dakota’s first new state park in decades has primitive feel
BISMARCK-- The state's newest park since 1989 could be open as soon as late summer. The state Parks and Recreation Department laid out conceptual plans this week for a $1 million project to be placed along the Missouri River on Bismarck's south side.
BISMARCK-- The state's newest park since 1989 could be open as soon as late summer.
The state Parks and Recreation Department laid out conceptual plans this week for a $1 million project to be placed along the Missouri River on Bismarck's south side.
Mark Zimmerman, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, said that, while a definitive master plan for the Missouri River Day Park has yet to be finalized, the vision for the park is for a mostly primitive day use area that would not allow camping and have few amenities. The goal is to offer a setting where people interact with nature in an area also rich in history. Aside from hiking, biking, fishing, birding, photography and cross-country skiing, he envisions the development of an outdoor learning center with a potential for art organizations and other groups to become involved with shaping its use.
About 125 people attended a public meeting Wednesday evening at the Bismarck Public Library to listen to a presentation on plans to develop the 213-acre tract of state-owned land that is part of the State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The land is part of the Missouri River Correctional Center, a minimum security prison known once as the State Farm.
There are 13 state parks and this area has potential to be unique in the state's system, according to Zimmerman.
"Expectations (for park use) have changed," Zimmerman said. "Parks change .... They are more than just camping."
The last state park to be added to the system is Cross Ranch State Park near Hensler, also along the Missouri River.
Jake Axtman, landscape architect for the project, said the area is one of the few remaining pristine Missouri River bottom areas in the state. He said there are several distinct ecosytems in the area: woodlands, sand dunes, wetlands and grasslands.
The plan is to weave about 3.5 miles of multi-use trails through the shifting sand dunes, which range from one to nine feet in depth.
"It's a living piece of property," Axtman said.
And it will keep changing as wind, water and weather work on the land. Since the late 1950s, about 60 acres have been lost to erosion. Following the 2011 flood, a large sandbar protects a part of the shore line, creating a backwater channel in places.
Zimmerman said the priority is to build a road and small parking area. The main access road will be south off 48th Avenue Southwest near England Street.
The road will be less than a quarter-mile long and will be constructed of gravel as will a parking area for about 50 vehicles. Zimmerman said the road will cost about $250,000. Other early work would include removal of dead fall and construction of trails.
From the parking area outside of the flood plain, there will be walking access, he said. Other priorities will be running water as well as providing bathroom facilities, most likely vault toilets.
The park would close at night and be patrolled by rangers or a combination of park staff, sheriff's deputies and Game and Fish personnel, he said. No motorized vehicles would be permitted.
While no other public meetings are planned, those interested can visit the Missouri River Day Park's Facebook page to participate in an online survey.