Log House Landing

A fence at the Log House Landing site sits just outside the city's road easement on the Summersby property.

 

Council approves 'as is' maintenance option for controversial landing

 

Log House Landing will remain open and “as is”—for now.

After a fiery debate last week about the future of the St. Croix River boat landing, the Scandia City Council voted 3-2 to keep the ramp open to trailered boats and to maintain the gravel landing in its present state.

“This (landing) should be open to everybody, not just a select few,” councilman Jim Schneider said.

After asking the public to consider four options for the ramp/landing, the city received hundreds of comments in writing and in person at a public hearing held April 25.

The proposed options were to: leave the ramp “as is” (Option 1); improve the ramp for trailered boats using concrete planks (Option 2); close the boat ramp to trailered boats, i.e. “carry-in only” (Option 3);  or close the ramp entirely (Option 4).

The vast majority of the comments favored either closing the ramp to carry-in only (Option 3), or were in support of leaving the landing as is or improving it (Options 1 or 2). Almost no one supported closing the landing entirely (Option 4). 

The council’s debate echoed those dueling preferences.

Schneider, whose opposition to closing the landing has been stated often, pointed out that all the council members, at one point or another, had expressed a desire to keep costs down.

“Nobody, including the old council and this council, wants to spend a ton of money on a full-blown invasive improvement on this property,” Schneider said. 

Schneider branded attempts to close the landing as an affront to the boaters, hunters and fishermen who use the site, an idea he said is advocated mostly by residents who live near the landing. 

“This landing, to me, is Scandia’s property,” Schneider said. “The landing should be enjoyed by all tax-paying citizens. … To limit Scandia’s use to a select few—and I am going to call them the not-in-my-back-yard people—that’s just plain wrong.”

Councilmember Bob Hegland agreed.

“It’s a resource to be used by the people,” he said. “Leave it alone.”

Councilmember Steve Kronmiller and Mayor Christine Maefsky, who favored the “carry-in” option and ultimately voted against the “as is” option, both argued that the site is too small to accommodate trailered motorboats and would be an ongoing maintenance headache for the city if left as-is. 

They argued that, if closed to only carry-in boats, the landing could be developed as a park that could be used for picnicking, and as a historical/educational site.

“It could become Scandia’s river access to all, not just a few. It will attract people who appreciate nature and we can use the site to educate people about how important the site is to our immigrant history,” Kronmiller said. “I understand a few voters will be inconvenienced by having to drive a few miles further to another launch, but I don’t see that as a hardship. … The carry-in option allows the greatest number of people to use this site.”

Maefsky spoke about the city potentially seeking tourism grants for the site.

“It has so much potential for being a park along the river in Scandia,” Maefsky said. “We’re talking about economic development. We’re talking about drawing people to the city. … This site could be a gem.”

Councilmember Chris Ness noted, though, that no actual plans exist for creating a park on the site. Only closing, maintaining or improving the boat ramp was on the table.

“I haven’t seen plans for walk-in yet or picnicking,” Ness said. “To (do) it before we know what we’re going to do [doesn’t make sense].”

The council was also split on the severity of the erosion issues at the site.

Maefsky argued that doing nothing would not address the ongoing erosion and run-off issues—the original concern for the project when the city was approached by the Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District years ago. 

“All we’re doing is taking the situation we have now and ensuring that it’s going to carry on into the future,” Maefsky said. “This is going to solve nothing.”

Schneider and Hegland, though, questioned the amount of erosion occurring on the site since the city re-graded the road in 2015.

City Administrator Neil Soltis told the council maintaining the landing in “as is” condition might take a day’s worth of public works staff time and an amount of gravel or trap rock material each year. He estimated that might cost the city $800 annually.

“There may be a better solution out there,” Soltis said. “(I)f there were other agencies … who could find a non-hard surface way of stabilizing that bank, I would love to have them come to the table.”

Keeping the landing open to kayaks and canoes only, i.e. the “carry-in” option, he said, would mean installing traffic bollards or some other type of road block. It would also mean closing the landing entirely for the better part of the summer, in order to re-vegetate the ramp and give it time re-seed. 

“Anyone who has ever put in a new lawn knows what that would be like,” Soltis said.

After the public hearing, the city received a letter from nearby landowners Judy and Ed Summersby about a possible encroachment of the landing a few feet beyond the city’s existing easement.

Within a day of the city’s receipt of the Summersby letter, an attorney representing the Friends of Log House Landing organization, which fought the city’s earlier plans to pave the landing and road and which now favors the carry-in option, also emailed the city about the easement issue, asking for a meeting with city staff.

But City Attorney Andrew Pratt advised the council that they would be on solid legal ground to proceed with any of the proposed options, noting that the encroachment is below the waterline and that state law favors public access to waterways.

“From a council perspective, you can make a decision on one of your options,” Pratt said.

Soltis said the city would formally survey the area but said any of the presented options were “theoretically feasible.”

The council agreed the issue would likely resurface again at some point.

“We could use this site. We could fix it and make the problem go away,” Kronmiller said. “If we continue to say ‘we’re just going to leave it alone, we’re not going to deal with it,’ it’s going to come back next year and the year after that.”

Other business:

• The council appointed Mark Porubcansky to a vacancy on the city’s Economic Development Authority.

The next Scandia City Council meeting will be held May 16 at 7 p.m.

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