Paying the price: Storms leave big bills and huge mess for state parks

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 7, 2012 - 9:27 PM

Damage comes a year after the government shutdown and major losses at St. Croix State Park.

view larger photos


It's an unsettling and expensive trend.

Floodwaters caused $4 million in damage to Whitewater State Park in 2007. High winds flattened more than 7,000 acres of trees and wrecked buildings at St. Croix State Park in 2011. Another massive flood last month hammered Jay Cooke State Park and the adjacent Willard Munger State Trail. And last week, 80-miles-per-hour winds damaged Itasca State Park and LaSalle Lake State Recreation Area.

"It's certainly an unusual pattern,'' said Courtland Nelson, Department of Natural Resources parks and trails director. "It's the second year in a row to have epic storms come through [and damage parks]. The most important thing is we haven't had anyone hurt. It's just astounding.''

Officials don't have damage estimates from this summer's storms, but they say it will cost millions of dollars. Now they have to figure out how to pay for it.

Federal disaster aid is likely to pay for 75 percent of some projects. A special legislative session this summer to consider aid for northeastern Minnesota infrastructure will include requests for money for the Department of Natural Resources, said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. And the DNR may be going hat-in-hand to the Legislature next session, too, for repair dollars.

One of the biggest DNR projects will be repairs at Jay Cooke, where an iconic 1930s-era swinging footbridge was destroyed and where the Munger trail -- a popular paved bike route -- was severely damaged between Carlton and Duluth.

Nelson said the trail alone will cost millions to repair. "It's very steep, and it's 25 years old. We had at least 10 major culvert failures,'' he said. The last single culvert failure cost $1 million to repair.

"We'll have to go to the Legislature for funds,'' Nelson said. He said there's virtually no chance the DNR would abandon that stretch of trail because of the high price tag.

"I don't think that will happen," he said. "We get a ton of traffic on it, and I think there'd be a lot of support locally to get that rebuilt.''

Nelson said the DNR is likely to erect a temporary bridge across the St. Louis River until it determines how to rebuild the bridge at Jay Cooke -- and how to pay for it. The bridge provides foot access to about half the park, including 30 miles of trails. He said it could take a couple of years to repair.

Access road also damaged

The state Highway Department, not the DNR, is responsible for repairing Hwy. 210, which provides access to Jay Cooke. The highway was severely damaged. Officials estimate it could cost up to $40 million to repair the 8-mile stretch of highway through the park. The park, the state's ninth most visited, is expected to be closed until October, which will cost the DNR about $175,000 in lost revenue.

North Shore state parks received little damage in the June deluge, when up to 10 inches of rain fell. But the DNR's fish hatchery at French River northeast of Duluth and a fish trap at Knife River were damaged by floodwaters last month, Landwehr said. "The fish trap blew out completely," he said. "I don't know if we'll replace it.''

The damage last week at Itasca State Park and LaSalle Lake recreation area, just north of the park, weren't as severe. Crews worked to clear blown-down trees at La Salle, and it remained closed. Itasca is open.

The state is self-insured, meaning if a park building is severely damaged or destroyed, the state must pick up the tab. The DNR budgets money for routine repairs and maintenance but not for major projects like replacing structures or bridges, Nelson said.

Storm damage is part of doing business in the outdoors. But the rash of recent storms and damage inflicted has been frustrating, Landwehr said.

"We lost $3.5 million in revenue last summer because of the [government] shutdown,'' he said. Then came the storm at St. Croix State Park, one of the state's most visited.

And now two more storms this summer.

"It's demoralizing for staff to be dealing with cleanup and emergencies and not running parks like they'd like to, but I'm proud of how they've been dealing with it,'' Landwehr said.

  • related content

  • Officials from the Minnesota DNR and MnDot escorted the media on a tou...

  • Itasca State Park

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.


Minnesota 16 FINAL
Buffalo 17
Atlanta 7 FINAL
Baltimore 29
Tennessee 17 FINAL
Washington 19
Seattle 26 FINAL
St. Louis 28
Cleveland 6 FINAL
Jacksonville 24
Cincinnati 0 FINAL
Indianapolis 27
Miami 27 FINAL
Chicago 14
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Detroit 24
Carolina 17 FINAL
Green Bay 38
Kansas City 23 FINAL
San Diego 20
Arizona 24 FINAL
Oakland 13
NY Giants 21 FINAL
Dallas 31
San Francisco 17 FINAL
Denver 42
Houston 7:30 PM
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Boston 95 FINAL
Brooklyn 90
Minnesota 112 FINAL
Oklahoma City 94
Golden State 83 FINAL
Houston 90
Charlotte 96 FINAL
Chicago 101
Utah 91 FINAL
LA Lakers 98
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
San Jose 0 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Calgary 4 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
St. Louis 0 FINAL
Anaheim 3
TX-San Antonio 20 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 27
Syracuse 30 FINAL
Wake Forest 7
Purdue 38 FINAL
Minnesota 39
Western Ky 38 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 45
(12) Baylor 27 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 41
(11) Kansas State 31 FINAL
(17) Oklahoma 30
Iowa 31 FINAL
Maryland 38
So Florida 38 FINAL
Tulsa 30
Tulane 13 FINAL
UCF 20
Virginia 13 FINAL
Duke 20
Akron 20 FINAL
Ohio U 23
Western Mich 26 FINAL
Bowling Green 14
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
Massachusetts 36
Appalachian St 53 FINAL
Troy 14
(25) UCLA 36 FINAL
California 34
Texas A&M 0 FINAL
(4) Alabama 59
Army 17 FINAL
Kent State 39
Kansas 21 FINAL
Texas Tech 34
Middle Tennessee 34
Rutgers 17 FINAL
(13) Ohio State 56
(8) Michigan State 56 FINAL
Indiana 17
New Mexico 31 FINAL
Air Force 35
NC State 18 FINAL
Louisville 30
(21) Clemson 17 FINAL
Boston College 13
Ball State 32 FINAL
Central Mich 29
Cincinnati 41 FINAL
(9) Georgia 45 FINAL
Arkansas 32
Oklahoma State 9 FINAL
(10) TCU 42
San Jose St 27 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Miami-Ohio 41 FINAL
Northern Ill 51
New Mexico St 17 FINAL
Idaho 29
Colorado 28 FINAL
(20) USC 56
(23) Marshall 45 FINAL
FIU 13
Southern Miss 30 FINAL
North Texas 20
Georgia Tech 43 FINAL
North Carolina 48
Tennessee 3 FINAL
(3) Ole Miss 34
Utah State 13 FINAL
Colorado State 16
Missouri 42 FINAL
Florida 13
Kentucky 3 FINAL
(24) LSU 41
(16) Nebraska 38 FINAL
Northwestern 17
Georgia State 27 FINAL
South Alabama 30
Washington 20 FINAL
(6) Oregon 45
Iowa State 45 FINAL
Texas 48
(7) Notre Dame 27 FINAL
(2) Florida State 31
Nevada 42 FINAL
BYU 35
Stanford 10 FINAL
(14) Arizona State 26
Hawaii 10 FINAL
San Diego St 20
Arkansas State 10/21/14 7:00 PM
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Columbus 3 FINAL
Red Bull New York 1
Seattle 2 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Ottawa 6 FINAL
Hamilton 16
Montreal 20 FINAL
Toronto 12
Calgary 33 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
Edmonton 24 FINAL
Saskatchewan 19
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question