Cleaning up the town

City officials are asking residents to help continue the cleanup of Minot, over two years after the devastating Souris River flood.

The Minot River Valley Cleanup will be held all day Friday and Saturday, with the headquarters located at Arrowhead Shopping Center parking lot at 1600-2nd Ave. SW.

Although the flood happened in 2011, there is still plenty of debris and damage that hasn’t been dealt with. The City of Minot, in conjunction with the North Dakota Petroleum Council and Enbridge, will be gathering volunteers to help remove overgrown grass and other debris on the city-owned lots of abandoned homes as well as along the banks of the Souris River.

Tasks volunteers will be asked to perform include walking through the lots and doing garbage cleanup, cutting down large weeds and plants, mowing grass and trimming around immovable objects.

Volunteers don’t need to bring anything to help with the cleanup, as some gloves and other supplies will be available. However, if they happen to have them, volunteers can bring rakes, mowers, weedeaters, chainsaws, trucks, trailers and any other equipment they have to help cut and clear grass, weeds and other debris. Bringing along a pair of gloves might not be a bad idea, either, as there might not be enough for everyone at headquarters.

Tessa Sandstrom of the North Dakota Petroleum Council said the City of Minot has cut down the heaviest cover of weeds and volunteers are asked to go through and do the remaining cleanup work. She said they have about 75 volunteers signed up over the two days so far.

“We’re going to come out and help do a lot of the trimming and we’ll also have a crew going out on the river banks to kind of handle the heavier weeds and debris that’s going to be out there,” Sandstrom said, noting the American Red Cross will be handing out box lunches and bottled water for volunteers.

After the cleanup, Sandstrom said they have already had some volunteers willing to adopt a lot to keep clean in the future, and she will happily accept commitments from other volunteers to do the same.

The event came about after Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman contacted the petroleum council about pulling together some volunteers for the cleanup effort.

“So I called Enbridge since they have such a large office and presence up there to see if they would be willing to help, and they were more than willing to help,” Sandstrom said. “They’re going to adopt about 10 lots themselves to keep an eye on following this initial cleanup.”

Dan Jonasson, public works director for Minot, said volunteers will be spread out all over town in the river valley areas of Minot, from 16th Street Southwest by the water treatment plant and Forest Road area to East Burdick Expressway.

The lots involved in the cleanup are ones the city has acquired and currently owns. Jonasson said for liability purposes, no cleanup activity can be held on privately-owned lots even if they do appear to be abandoned.

Jonasson said his crews have been stretched thin by all the work that needs to be done in the city. He has even had to pull workers from some areas just to try to keep up with the lot maintenance that has been sorely needed for a while.

“We actually pulled our patching crews and some of our sweeping crews and we have been mowing lots the last two weeks in the flood zone,” Jonasson said. “We’ve done over 160 lots in the flood area.”

With much of the heavy work done by city crews, Sandstrom said the volunteers are stepping in to finish the job and keep those lots looking good so the city’s patchers and sweepers can concentrate on the job they were hired to do in the first place.

“With the flood and then with the community growing so quickly, they city’s found themselves kind of short of time and resources to get this done,” Sandstrom said. “So we’re going to make one big push this weekend and continue to help them maintain the cleanliness in those areas thereafter.”