A rustic but busy St. Croix River access in Scandia is going to get a lot less primitive.
Log House Landing will be significantly rebuilt to reduce erosion, improve boat launching, and protect the river’s water under a plan announced last week. The city has received a $200,000 grant for the project from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
When Scandia officials first started to consider the proposal last year, Maintenance Superintendent Tim Kieffer reported that five dump truck loads of rock had to be hauled in during 2012 to mitigate erosion, according to a story in the Forest Lake Times.
“Boats with trailers are tearing up the ground something fierce to get up the hill,” Mayor Randall Simonson said.
Keeping the road out of the river
The road to the landing, 205th Street, drops 100 feet in elevation from the top of the bluffs. A steep, deep ravine runs along the north side, and erosion is sending sediment into the creek in that ravine, and ultimately into the river.
From the parking area to the river, it is a challenge at best for boaters trying to back down and drive up with their boats in tow. This causes deep ruts in the road, and sends a lot of gravel into the St. Croix.
Work will include a concrete boat ramp, the access road will be seal coated and get gutters, and retaining walls will be built to prevent erosion into the river.
In addition to accommodating heavy traffic, the project will include basins to filter sediment and pollutants out of runoff. Erosion controls will also be implemented, including the planting of native vegetation to stabilize the soil.
A construction schedule has not been finalized but will likely begin in late 2014 or early 2015. The full grant application for DNR funding can be viewed online here.
Maintaining motor boat access
One option to resolving the erosion and safety issues was to revert the landing to carry-in only, making it an access solely for canoes and kayaks. It existed as such a landing for several decades.
In the Forest Lake Times article last year, officials involved in the decision discussed whether or not to pursue that alternative:
“Twenty years ago, the only thing you could launch there was a canoe,” [Parks and Recreation Committee Member Mike] White said. “Why can’t we go back to that?”
Closing the road from the parking lot down to the river, preventing boat trailers from being used, might cost closer to $20,000, [Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District Administrator Jim] Shaver said.
Closing the site altogether would keep the gravel out of the river, reduce maintenance costs and make one less site to monitor. Some nearby neighbors might welcome this option, saying nonresidents are the main users of the site. But this solution could also be unpopular with people from Scandia.
The article also described the argument to keep it open as a full boat landing as catering to visitors, who are important to the town’s economy. When parking was restricted to one side of the road in 2012, anglers posting in a thread on Hot Spot Outdoors online forum complained. User “tunrevir” shared the news, saying:
“We are just a small loophole away from losing a landing on the St. Croix that many of us have enjoyed using over the years. There has been no action at this point to close the landing like the local residents want but the parking restrictions look like they will take place in the near future. Here’s a chance to be heard as a hunter and fishermen and contact the folks involved and voice your opposition.”
City Administrator Kristina Handt was quoted saying the city promotes the landing to tourists.
Log House’s latest chapter
The plans for the renovation are part of a story that began when the site was the location of a steamboat landing in the 1850s where many Scandinavian immigrants disembarked and hiked to homesteads in the area. The log house which gives the place its name first served as a public house, or inn, for these travelers.
In a St. Croix 360 article last year, Scandia resident Lisa Schlingerman shared some of the landing’s long history, which also included decades as a quiet place where local residents would store their boats. She quoted neighbor Ed Summersby, whose grandfather built a cabin near the landing in 1912, sharing his memories:
“In [the 1930s] there was no boat launching ramp, just some wooden steps leading partway down the bank toward the shore from the sandy parking area that was large enough for a few cars, and provided, as I recall, a stone fireplace grill and a double outhouse, also constructed of stone…
“In my youth, along the shore of the landing were groups of wooden boats, some with outboard motors, some not, that belonged to assorted local Scandia residents, mostly farmers and fishermen and others without riverfront property, who trusted implicitly that their boats were perfectly safe left unattended for long intervals, simply pulled up on shore and tied to a tree.”
Since a boat ramp was first carved out of the banks about 50 years ago, Log House Landing has become increasingly popular. The only nearby river accesses are William O’Brien State Park a couple miles downstream, where a vehicle permit is required, or Somerset Landing a couple miles farther down on the Wisconsin side. The closest access upstream is about six river miles away at Osceola Landing.