River Front and Center

Minot’s valley neighborhoods would be more connected and functional under a plan-in-progress that residents glimpsed Tuesday.

The River Front and Center project has encouraged residents to brainstorm projects to not just rebuild but improve areas flooded in 2011. Planners with Stantec, the city’s consultant, shared ideas generated so far during presentations and the open house, held at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church Tuesday. Residents had additional opportunity to submit more comments.

Common suggestions for each of the six neighborhood divisions included improving trail systems, developing parks, making certain roads more functional and improving traffic safety around schools. Areas for potential commercial development were identified, including the former Oak Park shopping center along Fourth Avenue Northwest, and East Burdick in the fairgrounds area.

“I am just anxious to see a nice greenway,” said Dan Voth, a resident who attended the open house. He said he sees potential in the plan, noting that a trail system would enable someone to bike across town from his west Minot neighborhood to Roosevelt Park.

Paul Bilotta, senior planner with Stantec, said a flood protection project has the capability to better connect the city through trails built on new levees.

“When you look at these sorts of post-disaster situations, initially there’s loss when homes are taken and the floodways come in, but if you can turn it into an amenity, something that pulls the community together,” he said, “the thing that was the disaster is now the big asset.”

Bilotta cited Grand Forks and its greenway built after its 1997 flood as an example. Voth also spoke of his excitement about the quality of Grand Forks’ greenway after a visit to that community.

“Trails are huge drivers of economic development nationally,” Bilotta said. “They drive residential values. More and more people use them for commuting.”

He said a levee trail system could help overcome Minot’s challenges related to the river, railroad tracks and major roadways dividing the city everywhere.

Among suggestions for the northwest neighborhood around Riverside and Nubbin Parks is to connect the two parks with a pedestrian bridge across the Souris River separating them.

Moose Park in southwest Minot would be consumed by the floodway but restored in nearby greenway created by the flood protection project. With the restoration would come a trail and greenway connection to nearby Wee Links and Souris Valley Golf Course and the rest of the river valley. Planners noted that the plan includes potentially turning Wee Links into a park and moving the junior golf course to a flood-protected area.

Downtown revitalization discussions revealed a desire for a park with downtown access. Bilotta proposed the creation of a new park northeast of the downtown and northwest of Roosevelt Park. The area currently contains a residential area known as the Ben’s Tavern neighborhood, which scheduled to become a floodway under the flood protection plan.

Bilotta said abandoning an area because of a potential flood isn’t recommended.

“You want activity in this area,” he said. “From a long-term perspective, you really don’t want areas that have no activity and can’t easily be seen from the road.”

A citywide connection through a greenway and levee trail system will be some years away, though, because of the time it will take to get a flood protection project in place.

Bilotta said planners will review feedback from Tuesday’s meeting and incorporate suggestions into a draft plan to be released at the next round of public meetings in November. The draft plan will prioritize various projects.

Residents can find more details about River Front and Center on Facebook pages for each of the six neighborhoods.