Grand Forks – meaning the literal confluence of the Red and Red Lake rivers – has been an important part of this region for more than two centuries.
But now, the actual “forks” are somewhat lost within the sprawl of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, the cities that have grown up around the historically significant point. And where there is no pavement, railroad and automobile bridges, or other obvious signs of civilization, there are several hundred yards of undeveloped land that is muddy, brushy and unappealing to casual recreationalists.
Now, work may be coming to make the spot more useful and appealing. East Grand Forks Mayor Steve Gander, during his State of the City speech last week, said the city is considering efforts to improve the area on the Minnesota side of the border near the actual confluence.
Today, the area just isn’t much to look at. There is a boat ramp in need of replacement, but not much else. The Greenway passes nearby, and people zip past as they bike or walk, but there isn’t much else to stop them. Part of the problem is that it’s also an area prone to floods, which probably limits beautification efforts.
One segment of Gander’s speech focused on that spot of the river and work that might soon improve it.
Grant dollars from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources appear to be coming to East Grand Forks, Recreation Superintendent Reed Huttunen said. The funding is earmarked to install a kayak launch, he said during a segment of Gander’s speech.
“Hopefully this summer, or early next, we will have that kayak launch installed and ready to enjoy,” Huttunen said.
The goal, he said, is to make the area more appealing to recreationalists while also addressing some of the ragged sightlines.
“It’s the namesake of the community, with the forks being here,” he said. “We think it can be a lot more usable and a lot more friendly for the eye to look at for residents who want to go down for a walk or go down and use the river.”
Responded Gander: “That will fit in with our long-range plan of, maybe little by little over the next 10 years or so, just doing some nice little improvements. This whole flattened area, it seems like there is a lot of potential. … We can really make this an attractive place.”
Attractive is good, but usable and attractive is even better. And sooner is better yet.
In Grand Forks, there is a kayak rental business that allows people to enjoy the Red. In addition, boat ramps in Lincoln Park and below Riverside Dam provide safe access to the river for anglers and boaters. It all has invited residents back onto a river that once was so important but seems to have been inappropriately demonized in recent decades.
The popular Greenway helps, but steps that can go further should be taken, since the Red should be highlighted by both cities as a place to walk, bike, picnic, fish and kayak.
The area on the Minnesota between the Sorlie Bridge and the railroad bridge to the south of it needs work. It’s good to see East Grand Forks recognizes it.