The effort to renovate Log House Landing has expanded to include a new special committee in Scandia. The group has gotten underway trying to identify a plan that will protect the river and fit into rural Scandia’s character.
After a grassroots groups of neighbors and landing lovers petitioned the city council this summer to reconsider plans to pave and otherwise modernize the historic and rustic site, elected officials, interested citizens, and others were appointed to work together to make recommendations.
Back in August, opposition arose to a city proposal to take out trees and widen the road, in addition to paving it and adding curbs. It was seen as excessive and unnecessary, raising fears that the quiet river access would lose its charm and its sense of the 150 years of documented history that began when Scandinavian settlers disembarked from river boats there and set off to find their homesteads. The group also said the renovations would ultimately destroy several of the mature trees that shade the road and landing and are essential to its quiet, peaceful setting.
The Friends of Log House Landing made an extensive presentation of alternatives designs at a city council meeting on September 3rd. Several experts in topics from hydrology to municipal liability spoke, and the group presented two less-intensive options that they said would address erosion and public safety concerns. You can view their presentation here, with diagrams showing proposed designs:
The group said it would be possible to keep the access road unpaved, move overflow parking to Quinnell Ave., and build a concrete boat ramp to deal with erosion issues. After conversations with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which had approved a $200,000 matching grant to fund the work, driving the plan’s expansion, they said the project could be significantly modified without risking the funding.
Citing studies by the Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District, Chauncey Anderson, a local water quality specialist with the U.S. Geological Survey volunteering his time with the group, said pollution into the St. Croix was not as big of an issue as previously believed, but erosion was mostly a threat to Gilbertson Creek, which follows the access road to the river through a deep gully. Phosphorus discharges from Gilbertson Creek are below benchmarks, and sediment output is equivalent to other local creeks.
A landscape architect from Marine who was also volunteering his time said an analysis of the current road showed how it could be fixed fairly easily. Shane Coen said most of it is currently sloped south, toward the creek. Simply regrading it to slope north would prevent much of the erosion problems into Gilbertson Creek.
While the group presented two options, one for a narrower but still paved road, and one which would keep it gravel, they said the gravel option might prove best. Plowman Smith said it could actually be cheaper in the long run to go with gravel, despite the need to regrade it regularly. The group estimated gravel would cost $120,000-$140,000, compared to $400,000 for the current city plan or $150,000-200,000 for the group’s paved option.
When it became clear that the erosion and public safety issues the landing faces could not be quickly solved, the council asked the smaller group to dig in and come in with a workable plan.
The committee includes residents Dave Hebert, Pam Plowman-Smith (of Friends of Log House Landing), and Ray Burris, and city council member Sally Swanson, Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District members Kristin Tuenge and Steve Kronmiller, Scandia Planning Commission members Christine Maefsky and Steve Philippi, and St. Croix River Association member Don Hansen.
The committee met for the first time on Oct. 28. According to meeting notes, the members stated their interests and concerns about the project, which ranged from protecting taxpayer dollars to preserving the Wild & Scenic values of the river.
“Basically, the goal of this group was seen as, after study and exploration, to recommend a course of action to the city council regarding the Log House Landing site improvements that is in accord with the Scandia Comprehensive Plan and addresses the primary concerns of the St. Croix River water quality, erosion, and access issues,” the notes state, emphasizing that the goals were not voted on, but paraphrased by chairperson Christine Maefsky.
According to statements at the Sept. 3 city council meeting and in the committee’s meeting minutes, both the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway and the Minnesota DNR have offered to help create signs at the landing to explain its historical significance.
The group was scheduled to meet again on November 3 and 13. According to Plowman Smith, it is hoped they can have a recommendation for the city council December or January.
Below, watch a short video by Anne Queenan, who was an artist-in-residence at the Pine Needles Cabin last summer, in which she interviews Lisa Schlingerman, a longtime neighbor of the landing who has been active in the Friends of Log House group: