Two years ago a fossil-hunting field trip turned tragic when a landslide at Lilydale Regional Park in St. Paul killed two fourth-graders from St. Louis Park. Later a City Pages investigation found the city had known about safety issues at the park for years, but Mayor Chris Coleman never found the money to address them.
Yesterday the head of St. Paul Parks and Recreation presented a plan to the City Council that will finally address those safety concerns and reopen some sections of the park this summer that have been closed since the landslide.
Three of the four fossil areas will still remain off-limits, and barriers are being erected and warning signs installed around areas deemed "high-risk" by the city's engineering consultant, Barr Engineering.
Also, signs are being put up displaying an eight-digit code that will help emergency responders pinpoint where people are in the 400-acre park. The 911 dispatcher struggled to figure out where to send rescue teams following the landslide, burning about 20 minutes of precious time.
Despite the precautions, City Council member Dan Bostrom questioned why the city would even consider reopening parts of the 50-acre section of the park at risk for landslides.
"What troubles me about this is obviously there have been some significant problems in this place before, and by putting up signs and barricades we're actually acknowledging there are still potential hazards in that general area," he said during yesterday's council meeting.
"Why in the world are we going back and doing this again? I can tell you, frankly, nobody has approached me and said, 'I really have gotta get back down to Lilydale.'"
Parks and Recreation Director Michael Hahm responded by reiterating that the most dangerous areas will remain closed.
"It's a very popular area and I think it's probably worse to try to keep areas closed without doing the work we're talking about, and giving people a reason why they shouldn't be in some areas," said City Council member Dave Thune. "I know people are going down there anyway and this is going to ensure their safety."
Click to page two to read an executive summary of Barr's finding and recommendations.
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