A new boat launch located underneath the St. Croix Crossing bridge in Oak Park Heights, Minn. should be open by spring of 2022.
The launch will be the last to be completed of 50 mitigation projects included in bridge construction. The $1.2 million river access was included in the nearly $700 million construction budget.
An informal launch has existed at the site for years, with the new one expected to be popular due to deep water, mild current, a convenient location — and limited options for other launches.
That is all according to recent reporting by Mary Divine in the Pioneer Press.
Plans call for the double-ramp boat launch, which will feature 35 boat-trailer parking slots, to be built this fall and open for public use in the spring of 2022.
“Based on our experience at other sites, I would expect this to be full all the time,” [Ken] Skaar, [DNR senior project manager, said. “It’s going to be a popular destination.”
The 35 angled parking slots are the maximum number that will fit.
Overnight parking will be allowed, but extended stays will not. Portable toilets will be provided, but there will be no trash cans. Boaters will be expected to “pack it in, pack it out,” Skaar said.
The boat launch will include a designated aquatic-invasive-species “clean in, clean out” removal area and a bin for disposal of aquatic plants and unwanted bait.
Oak Park Heights City Administrator Eric Johnson said residents are looking forward to having a boat launch in the city. “Will it be a nice asset for our community? Absolutely,” he said. “The more people who can get out on the river, the better.”– St. Croix River: Timeline set for new boat landing in Oak Park Heights, Pioneer Press, Jan. 10, 2021
It was originally intended to be open a year ago. One reason for its delay has been negotiations with the Union Pacific railroad, which owns tracks that cross a access road to the site.
The railroad has not issued permits for the project, and is pushing for the state to move the road off Union Pacific property. But a DNR spokesperson is still hopeful construction will soon commence.
Despite the lower St. Croix River’s popularity with boaters, the Minnesota DNR only has one landing on this stretch: near the St. Croix Boom Site north of Stillwater. During the summer of 2020, that landing’s parking lot was frequently overflowing, with many vehicles and trailers parked illegally. Boaters must also negotiate a large shallow area to reach the main channel from the landing.
The DNR also operates boat landings upriver at William O’Brien, Interstate, Wild River, and St. Croix state parks.