The city of Stillwater will shut several riverfront parking lots on Wednesday in preparation for dike construction and sandbagging to begin next week, measures deemed necessary after the National Weather Service forecast significant flooding along the St. Croix River.
The closures include the popular bicycle and pedestrian path across the Stillwater Lift Bridge.
Late-season snow and cold temperatures that have kept the moisture locked up in snowpack and ice upstream from Stillwater have created dire flood conditions, according to the Weather Service. An updated forecast expected Thursday will clarify the chances of the river reaching the major flood stage of 89 feet.
The new forecast will help the city determine the size of dike necessary to hold back the river, with volunteers expected to start sandbagging on Monday, said Shawn Sanders, the city's director of public works. He said the focus will be from Nelson Street near the Dock Café to Mulberry Street. That's the lowest spot along the river and the most likely area for flooding.
City crews will install jersey barriers and pedestrian fencing starting on Wednesday. That work should take about three days, Sanders said.
The city's worst-ever flood in 1965 saw the river crest at 94.1 feet. A Weather Service forecast from earlier this month said there was a 73 percent chance of major flooding.
The city is asking volunteers to sign up on the website of Community Thread, a Stillwater nonprofit. Volunteers should be able to lift and carry 30 pounds, and be prepared to be on their feet for several hours while filling or moving sandbags. Volunteers between the ages of 14 and 17 will need parental consent.
The city will keep the riverfront lots closed until the waters recede and the flood dikes are removed, according to a notice on the city's website. Portions of Nelson, Chestnut, Myrtle, and Mulberry streets will be closed to the public beginning Wednesday.
The closures on Wednesday include the bike path that runs along Lowell Park, from the Brown's Creek State Trailhead Kiosk on the north end of town to Nelson Street.