WDAY: The News Leader

Published August 16, 2010, 08:39 AM

Minimal maintenance at a Moorhead park raises safety concerns

Moorhead, Minn. (WDAY TV) - Meager maintenance at Moorhead parks is raising some safety issues. WDAY first told you the number of city parks increased by at least 35 percent in the last 10-years, while the park budget increased just for inflation. That doesn't even include undeveloped parks in new developments and new flood mitigation green space.

Mike Hokanson says the city falls short of keeping the grass short here at Woodlawn Park. That's why he does some of it and weeding.

“Close to 8 feet tall; I had to use a chainsaw to get some of the thistles down.”

But looks aren't everything. Hokanson says the minimum maintenance creates safety hazards. He removes trees professionally and says many of these trees need to go. Some, he says, were marked with red X's but left standing.

Mike Hokanson: “What liability will the city have if someone is killed?”

There are also culverts scattered around these 29 acres which you can't see, until you're in them.

Hokanson: “Hit that, break a leg maybe. Dogs and kids can get down there.”

Hokanson says he understands budget constraints, but thinks better markings on culverts and extra garbage cans are reasonable requests.

“An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure.”

City manager Mike Redlinger says Woodlawn Park lacks some amenities because it's meant to hold flood water. He says it hasn't received the attention some other riverside parks have since major flooding the last two years.

Redlinger: “We need to finish the job.”

It doesn't help that park maintenance dollars are scarcer than ever before, meaning every park gets fewer visits from maintenance crews.

Redlinger: “Budgetary concern, but we will put it on map.”

Redlinger says the city's already identified possible funds to address Woodlawn's immediate needs. Upcoming 2011 budget talks should show more long term, whether park maintenance crews get to more cutting or more cut backs.

Since Hokanson raised the issue, he says the city added more garbage cans to the park. There will be discussion on Woodlawn Park at tomorrow's park board meeting. It's starts at 4pm and the public is welcome.