Flood cleanup on Grand Forks Greenway in progress, part of a longer process this spring
Crews have cleaned up what they can as the wet conditions keep them from being able to bring in heavy equipment to clear debris along the Red River.
GRAND FORKS – On a sunny day last week, Kim Greendahl looked at an uprooted tree trunk lying along the Red River.
“I’ve never had one that big here,” Greendahl, the Greenway specialist for the city of Grand Forks, said as she looked for clues on how the tree got to this final resting place near the Flood Memorial Monument.
Aside from the tree trunk, which will reside in this new spot for a while until crews are able to get to it, flood cleanup along the Greenway has been a prolonged process. Greendahl, who’s been the Greenway specialist for close to 20 years, said this year has been an interesting one.
A wet spring, with multiple crests of the Red River, has kept
crews from getting to some of the most saturated areas.
“What’s precedent about this one is how long it's been here stalled and I feel that way with the cleanup effort. I feel kind of stalled,” she said.
To start the cleanup process, Greendahl takes photos of areas along the Greenway that are prone to flooding. She then shares the photos with staff. A contractor is hired to help with clearing debris and other needed work. Greendahl said the contractor — who mows and does other Greenway care for the city — knows the area well.
So far, wet conditions have kept crews from being able to bring in heavy equipment to clear the debris that has accumulated during the multiple river crests. With the ground still wet, Greendahl said she expects cleanup will continue to go into June. A wet Memorial Day weekend, followed by more rain on Tuesday, probably won't help.
Another factor in flood cleanup is silt, and its accumulation on the Greenway's walking and biking trails. The slimy stuff needs to dry before crews can clean it, leading to some frustration with people who want to enjoy the trails.
Once the silt does dry, crews can easily clean it off by just scraping and sweeping the dried-up pieces or power-washing it off, if needed.
Cleanup along the Greenway in East Grand Forks is also ongoing. Greendahl said East Grand Forks Parks and Recreation and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources work on flood cleanup on that side of the river, though both cities work together and meet once a month to discuss Greenway management.
While silt and debris are commonly cleaned after flooding, Greendahl said she has seen other items washed up as well. Furniture, appliances, oil tanks and even a shed are some of the unusual things that have been found along the riverbank in the past. Those items haven’t made their way onto the Greenway as much in recent years.
“We’ve seen less and less of that, which encourages me,” she said.
Now that Grand Forks and East Grand Forks both hold annual cleanup weeks, Greendahl figures it helps prevent people from dumping junk in the river.
“I think that helps a lot and it keeps people from doing what they believe is the free and hidden way to do things,” she said.
Greendahl said there are always people wanting to volunteer with the flood cleanup, though by the time everything dries up enough for people to help, crews have usually completed all the work.
Although larger items aren’t being dumped as much, there is still trash being left behind. Greendahl would like to see more people pick up after themselves instead of leaving their garbage.
Along with overseeing flood cleanup, Greendahl also works with groups or individuals who have ideas for the Greenway. Even if those ideas don’t work out for the Greenway itself, Greendahl said she works with the Park District to see if those ideas can work for one of the many parks in Grand Forks.
Greendahl also does short and long-term maintenance, including making sure day-to-day mowing gets done and looking into maintenance needed on the boathouse, for example.
Greendahl enjoys her job. She likes being able to listen to people’s ideas for the Greenway, along with having a role in maintaining it.
“It’s knowing that I am part of something that most people take for granted,” Greendahl said. “I can look back and go ‘wow, I was a part of that.’”