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Missouri River Day Park development on hold until new budget cycle

This aerial photo taken July 10, 2017, shows the site of a proposed day park along the Missouri River south of Bismarck. It would be North Dakota's first new state park in more than 25 years. The field on the left would separate the park from the Missouri River Correctional Center. File Photo / Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK — North Dakota Parks and Recreation is aiming to secure operational funding before turning its eye to development of the Missouri River Day Park.

With a lack of state funding, a pair of community groups offered their services to make park improvements using volunteer labor. Local Boy Scouts and the Dacotah Chapter of the Sierra Club had offered to donate their time to create primitive trails, a process they had hoped to seek approval for and start in the spring.

"Since there is a very limited budget for Parks and Rec, we thought we could use volunteer labor so people can get in and start using the park," said Wayde Schafer of the Sierra Club.

But without the money for the park's operations in the department's most recently approved budget, any improvements will have to wait, at a minimum, until the 2019 state Legislature, when a new budget will be made.

"If we had an allocation for operation and maintenance for a new park, then we would welcome volunteer efforts to help with development of this park," said Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Kristin Byram. "However, without that, we have no way to provide the resource management or service for public health and safety that a park requires."

In order to allow the public to access the more than 200-acre park along the Missouri River south of Bismarck, Parks and Recreation needs funding and staff for such activities as picking up litter, law enforcement and weed management, Byram said.

A master plan for development of the day park has been completed but, of the $11.75 million in funds once available to North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department for park improvements in the state, remaining funds not spent on projects in other parks were used to address the state budget shortfall. This led the department to put any development efforts on hold.

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