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Erik Burgess, Published November 02 2012

Moorhead looking for riverfront ideas

MOORHEAD – A lake where Woodlawn Park used to be. A riverfront café adjacent to downtown. A sectioned-off bird sanctuary fit for wildlife lovers.

All three ideas are possible visions for Moorhead’s changing riverfront.

With flood mitigation efforts along the Red River finishing up, city officials are planning the next step – developing a community greenway on the now-public land acquired in the buyouts.

Public input is encouraged and so far the creative energy is flowing, well, like a river.

“I’ve heard things such as flood Woodlawn Park and make it into a small lake close to downtown,” said Mayor Mark Voxland. “I’ve heard that different areas along the river should be carved out to make them green space park areas.”

Voxland has formed a committee that includes 16 residents to filter through all the ideas. All residents live west of 20th Street.

“Several people have said don’t do anything; just leave it, and let it go back to nature,” Voxland said. “There’s a lot of great ideas. It’s just a matter of where we want to go in the future.”

The committee, which also includes two members of the City Council, will accept ideas through next spring. At that point, city officials – including planners, park officials and economic developers – will decide which ideas are the most feasible.

The Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Council of Governments is providing technical information and guidance to insure that whatever is done is sustainable and safe.

“We need to make sure that what we’re doing is built with the future in mind,” said Bob Backman, a committee member and executive director of River Keepers, a Red River advocacy group.

The public input received so far covers a wide gamut. A local sporting group suggested a lengthy, riverside cross-country skiing trail. Some just want more bike and hiking trails that connect to existing routes.

Backman said another concern of the committee is building something that doesn’t disrupt those who still live along the river.

“We want to maximize its use,” he said of the newly open riverside space, “but not unduly disturb remaining folks, and I think there will be different uses in different places.”

Another major piece of the process will be helping the city understand how to maintain the newly public land, a role Metro COG will take on.

“They’ve added a couple hundred acres of public lands. How are they going to manage that?” said Wade Kline, executive director of Metro COG.

Voxland said the committee has no set timeline.

“Everything’s on the table that’s legal,” Voxland said, noting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has some strict guidelines for what can and can’t be built near the river

“We can’t build a skyscraper on the wet side of the dike,” he said, laughing. “After that, let the imagination go.”

How to pitch an idea for Moorhead’s riverfront

To suggest an idea, call the office of Mayor Mark Voxland at (218) 299-5307 or email him at mark.voxland@cityofmoorhead.com.

The committee will also be holding public forums at dates to be announced.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518