Graner Park set to comeback
By LeAnn Eckroth
A long-term flood recovery plan for Graner Park might involve reinforcing its shoreline and expanding its modern campsites.
The Morton County Park Board has applied for a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to riprap the east bank of the park. It also applied for a $250,000 state Outdoor Heritage Grant to pay for the project, said Tim Nilsen, county park director.
The county considered permanently closing the popular recreation site after the 2011 Missouri River flood that was caused by record releases from Garrison Dam. But after three summers of recovery work, the park features have grown instead of being shuttered, he said.
“The condition of the park after the flood was literally a disaster. We had logs everywhere, large piles of sand and 27 electrical pad units were destroyed,” Nilsen said.
The park remained closed for most of 2011 (after the flood started in May), reopened late in its season in 2012 and was able to fully operate in 2013 due to cleanup done. The corps also has replaced the boat ramp as was planned before the 2011 flood.
Nilsen estimates that between 1995 to now, the park lost 20 to 40 feet of embankment to the east.
“Half or more of that was due to the flood,” he said. “The rest is the constant erosion from the Missouri River’s strong current.”
Nilsen said there was no riprap in place before where officials want to stabilize the embankment. The flood caused little damage to the park’s embankment already secured by riprap, he added.
He said funds from the Federal Emergency Management Administration helped in the recovery. “The county highway department did most of the cleaning and we had support from Friends of Graner Park,” Nilsen said.
“There was an outcry from the public. The public stepped up,” Nilsen said. “They wanted it open. It’s an important campsite. They wanted to camp.”
He said the Friends of Graner Park spent a lot of personal time, their own money and used their own equipment — excavators, Bobcats and trailers — to help speed up the work.
The county park board was able to replace the 27 electrical boxes for the previous modern campsites. Last fall and this spring, 19 more electrical pads were added for campers‘ convenience. The park board has applied for a permit to install 29 new electrical units.
“We are plumb full. Our numbers are up 50 percent from the 2010 season,” Nilsen said. “People want to camp there. We’ve got an influx of people in Bismarck and Mandan and people want to camp.”
He is confident the new electrical units will be used and bring in more camping enthusiasts.