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Mouse River Park cabin owners return to stench, destruction, filth and mold

With the river back in its banks, Mouse River Park is open again--but only to property owners facing the task of cleaning up the mess.

7/27/11 (Wed)

Almost a house boat . . . A mobile home used as a cabin at Mouse
River Park nearly floated into the river channel, as it sets now with
its hitch over the water.  The cabin, owned by Joe Peterson of Granville
and located along Cole's Road in the northeast portion of the Park, was
swung around and moved about 40 to 50 feet from where it sat
originally. Most of the park's cabins are expected to be demolished.


Don't touch anything . . . Black mold darkens the carpet and
white walls of a hallway in a Mouse River Park mobile home.


By Caroline Downs
With the river back in its banks, Mouse River Park is open again--but only to property owners facing the task of cleaning up the mess.
The evacuation order was partially lifted July 20th, four weeks after Renville County officials made the difficult decision to pull people from sandbagging duty and open the flood control gates in an effort to backfill the Park and perhaps save the dike.
Park visitation was limited last Wednesday, with Renville County Emergency Manager Kristy Titus escorting property owners to their cabins from the Park’s east entrance and giving them enough time only to open doors and windows and do a preliminary damage assessment.
At that time, property owners were required to leave with Titus, given that access to some roads and cabins was still hampered by several feet of water.
On Saturday, however, all property owners were allowed to return between 9 am and 9 pm, hours that remain in effect until further notice.
Those who ventured through the muck and mud still present, including a layer of fine silt covering every surface three and four inches deep, discovered a colossal mess with a terrible odor.
“You get used to it after a while,” said Darrell Iverson, caretaker at Mouse River Park, “but when you first come in, it smells like someone’s pumping sewer or something.”
He laughed as he added that the man who delivered port-a-potties for the Park’s temporary use complained about the stink.
Iverson recommended that people start on the cleanup as soon as possible. “Whether they’re going to maintain their cabins or fix them, the quicker they can get them aired out and get them dry, the better,” he said. “That’s solid mold, and it’s awful. That’s the first thing, to get to that stuff.”
Iverson also advised property owners to expect to make small steps in their cleaning progress. “You just have to take a piece at a time and whittle away,” he said. “It takes forever and a day, and you bounce from thing to thing. I’ve been cleaning in the shop for a week, and I’m not half done.”
Several property owners have started piling debris and rubbish on their lots for now, until a disposal plan can be implemented. “Some are hauling it out of there,” Iverson said. “We don’t have space for that stuff down there.”
Iverson has also been helping Renville County Water Resource Board members pump water out of the Park and evaluate the damage done to the county buildings and campsites. The port-a-potties will remain in use until the bathrooms can be repaired. “We have to replace the water heaters in there,” he said, “and it still needs some tender lovin’ scrubbin’.”
The campsites and shelters will be out of use for the season. “All our pedestals and the electric work have to be redone,” said Iverson.
He believed most of the cabins and outbuildings in the Park would have to be demolished, with water levels ranging from 6 to 16 feet. “Most of the old trailers, those will have to be demolished. There’s no repairing them,” he said, then chuckled. “Anybody looking for moldy, flooded trailers, I know where there’s a pile of them.”
All roads within the Park are passable now, although Cole’s Road is still heavily damaged and needs repair. The west entrance, which also serves as a spillway for the Mouse River at the Park, remains closed. “That west road is still under a couple feet of water,” Iverson said, “probably three feet.”
Walt and Donna Weaver of Kenmare are two property owners planning to gut the first floor of their cabin on Miller Drive, along the river’s east bank. Donna Weaver said they would remove the insulation, sheet rock and some electrical wiring within the next few weeks. “Then we’ll leave it for the winter and let it freeze dry,” she said.
The Weavers use their Park cabin as a summer residence, with a home in Arizona for the winter, so the couple has been staying at the Roger and Shelly Ness farmhouse since the flooding started. Donna Weaver shook her head as she described the random damage done by the water, with the couple’s propane tank, 80 percent full and secured with a log chain, drifting downstream onto the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge while a relatively lightweight ceramic yard ornament remained in the yard. “You’ve got to laugh at some of this,” she said.
Chuck and Janet Leet of Kenmare returned to their cabin on Wednesday with Titus. “It’s just amazing what water does with buildings,” Chuck Leet said, describing decks and porches that were moved several lots away while his own deck floated nearly to the top of his cabin, only to settle back down within inches of where he originally built it.
Like the Weavers, the Leets plan to tear down the remains of their home there, then replace it with a some type of camper-trailer unit that can be pulled out of the Park in the event of another flood.
According to Chuck Leet, he and his neighbors were already discussing plans to coordinate their clean-up efforts, including ways to remove the silt coating their lawns.
The Leets expected most of their neighbors to stay on their sites along Cole’s Road. “Everybody we talked to down there that day said, ‘Geez, it’s good to be back in the Park,’” said Chuck Leet. “We were all happy just to be down there. But I think you’ll find that a lot of the cabin owners and trailer owners will go back in there with campers after this is all done.”
Like the other residents, Iverson remained hopeful the Park will be clean and ready to receive visitors again, despite the destruction, filth and mold he sees and smells now. “It’ll probably never be exactly the same,” he said. “It might be better.”
He continued, “I have some trees down there that were losing leaves. I see they’re already poking new leaves out again, so there must be hope some place!”

You name it, it's in there . . . More than a dozen picnic tabels,
numerous porches, steps, fences, decks, docks, and an outhouse
piled up and came to rest near the west abutment
on the Mouse River Park bridge.

More of the same stuff, other side . . . Steps, decks, fences, docks
and more piled up on the east end of the Mouse River Park bridge, too.

Disposal of the mess could be a problem at Mouse River Park


The clean-up of Mouse River Park properties may have started, but disposal could be a problem.


According to Darrell Iverson, caretaker of the Park, roll-off dumpsters have been requested but Mouse River Park remains low on the list to receive them.


“The dumpgrounds in Mohall will take some things, but they don’t want any mattresses, carpet and furniture,” he said, adding that property owners would pay the regular landfill fees there. “A lot of this stuff they consider hazardous.”


The new landfill on the northeast side of Kenmare will accept the garbage, according to Mike Thompson, director of public works. “We’ll take the inert materials,” he said. “We’ll also take the burnables.”


He noted the Kenmare landfill had already accepted piles of soggy furniture and carpets from local residents whose homes sustained damage from flooded basements during the spring and early summer.


Mouse River Park property owners who want to dump their damaged goods in Kenmare will pay the normal out-of-town rates of $50 per pickup load and $100 per truck load.


Regular landfill hours are Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 6:30 to 7:30 pm and Saturdays from 11 am to 1 pm. The landfill is closed on Wednesdays.


“We might adjust [those hours] if we have to,” Thompson said, adding that one hour on a weeknight might not be convenient for Park residents. “People should call me and we’ll see what we can do for them.”


Mouse River Park property owners with further questions about the Kenmare landfill regulations and hours are welcome to contact Thompson at 701-217-0261.


Ready for a cleaning . . . Mud cakes the floor of one of
the Park's newest structures, the Gazebo.


Dike in good shape as flood waters recede


Renville County Water Resource Board chair Jim Burbidge was pleased to learn the Mouse River Park dike passed inspection by the Army Corps of Engineers last week, after water topped the flood control structure on June 22nd.


Renville County officials made the decision that day to open the southern flood gates and allow the Park to backfill and thus prevent an onslaught of water, flowing at historic rates between 22,000 and 30,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), from sweeping over the dike. Floodwaters still submerged the dike, but as the river subsided, the structure remained intact.


“The inspector was really surprised, really happy, at what he found,” Burbidge said. “Either we had some blind luck or some of the things we did have helped it.”


The inspection took place early last week, and the next day, the Renville County Water Resource Board moved in the first pump to start draining the Park. “Then we got another big pump we brought in to use, and things are going really well with that,” Burbidge said.


The dike continues to firm up more every day as the water levels drops and the ground, saturated since April, finally dries. Last Thursday, the water level in the Park was lowered to an elevation of 1,598 feet in order to remove water from the softball field and Cole’s Road. “We’re trying to get everything back in the river,” Burbidge said. He estimated the elevation of the river within the Park on Monday to be around 1,600 feet.


Only minor repairs will have to be done to the dike or flood control structures within the Park. “Where the water first started coming over the dike, we have to do a little bit of work there,” Burbidge said.


The manhole cover and surrounding area near the hydraulic pump location at the south end of the Park will also need some attention, and Burbidge said the water resource board wants to lay down some gravel along the top of the dike in places. “We’ll get it leveled,” he said. “That’s just going to make us feel better.”


The Park’s dike is normally inspected every September. Burbidge laughed as he said the inspector didn’t believe that appointment would be necessary again this year.


“We must maintain the dike at certain standards,” Burbidge said, adding that muskrat and gopher control and mowing are some of the conditions that are required. “We’ve been trying to keep it up pretty well.”


Technically, the Mouse River is still in flood stage at the Park, with readings at the Sherwood gauge showing inflows of 2,600 to 2,700 cfs. Burbidge didn’t seem too concerned about any threat to the Park at this point, though. “I think everybody is ready to move on to the next thing,” he said.

Footprints in the muck . . . A few inches of slippery silt covers much
of the cabin lawns and other grassy areas throughout the Park.


Will it survive this flood? . . . Most of the county-owned buildings
at Mouse River Park, such as the bar building shown above, have
survived many floods of years ago.  It remains to be seen,
however, how many of the structures at the Park will remain
standing after this year's record flood.