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OUR OPINION: Landings would showcase recreational gem

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One day. Just one day.

Heck, maybe just one hour:

That’s all it would take to turn anyone from a skeptic into a believer about the Red River’s recreational potential.

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After a single hour of paddling a canoe down the river’s undulating length, savoring the gentle water, wilderness quiet and unspoiled scenery that exists even within the Grand Forks city limits, valley residents would want to enjoy the same activity again and again.

But they’d find this very hard to do. That’s because the nearest boat landing upstream of Grand Forks is located east of Buxton, N.D., 33 long river-miles away.

In fact, the Red River’s 395-mile length in North Dakota and Minnesota boasts few landings of any kind.

And without a landing, accessing the Red is difficult or impossible because of the river’s high and muddy banks.

Luckily, this problem now has a straightforward and realistic solution:

Use North Dakota’s new Outdoor Heritage Fund to build a network of landings, thereby opening the river up to recreationalists of all ages.

The project need not cost a lot of money. Canoe landings in particular are cheap, consisting largely of a parking area and a cleared path to the river.

Nor would the project managers have to buy land, an activity that the fund’s rules wouldn’t allow in any case. The rights-of-way along existing Red River bridges offer all the space that would be needed.

A key challenge would be to figure out who’d maintain the new landings. But as Bob Backman of Fargo’s Riverkeepers group notes in his column in today’s section, snowmobile clubs solved a similar problem years ago by contracting with the state to groom and maintain trails.

Couldn’t boating clubs, canoeing clubs, Scout groups or similar organizations be enlisted to do the same?

The Red River today is practically a closed resource, with long stretches seeing very little human activity. A system of landings could open the river’s gates, and give valley residents access to a world-class resource that’s literally minutes from their front doors.

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