WDAY: The News Leader

Published August 11, 2010, 10:16 AM

Moorhead having trouble keeping up with park maintenance

Moorhead, Minn. (WDAY TV) - Is Moorhead growing too fast to keep up with basic maintenance? Moorhead grew by nearly 5 square miles in the last decade. 14 parks were added without adding help to maintain them. New flood projects could make the problem worse.

Joe Bennett/Moorhead: “Maybe not discrimination, but it's out of the way.”

Bennett Park means a lot to Joe Bennett. For one, it's named after him. That's part of why he and his wife put time and money into planting flowers and doing other projects he feels the city is neglecting.

Joe: “I want our name to be associated with an asset, not a detriment to the community.”

He says Moorhead seems to pay more attention to parks easier to see, like Village Green Park. What's happening, says the city manager, is Moorhead is having a hard time keeping up at every park.

Since 2000, 14 new parks were added. That's 35 percent of total parks. During that time, Moorhead's Finance Director says the park maintenance budget grew only enough to keep up with inflation. The city manager says the result is less time spent mowing and doing other things to keep parks looking nice.

Joe: “When they look over and see a city park that is not looking sharp or good, it gives them the reason to think well, why should I?”

The problem could get even worse with flood mitigation projects. Crews are clearing the way for dike starting here just south of the interstate, this and flood buyout properties are public green space, meaning they could fall under the responsibility of the parks department.

Engineers aren't sure yet who will be responsible, but say it's vital someone monitors the dikes and makes sure trees and gophers don't start showing up.

Bob Zimmerman/Moorhead City Engineer: “They can create holes that allow water in and if we have a flood, the dike could fail.”

Upcoming budget talks will be huge in deciding whether Moorhead's growth will continue to shrink what it can do for its green space. City officials are working to hire more seasonal workers who can provide extra help at a low cost.