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Aiming for a natural solution

Vanessa Glieden Henjum, left, with the Middle Fork Crow Watershed District watches as New London Mayor Bill Gossman, center, and Chuck Joswiak with Windscapes of Inver Grove Heights fill a meshed tube with sand and gravel in front of the main viewing area in Neer Park. Meshed tubes of sand and gravel will stabilize the badly eroded bank and are designed so that natural vegetation can sprout in them. (Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny)1 / 2
Chad Anderson, administrator with the Middle Fork Watershed District, puts his entire arm under the bank to show how badly undercut a portion of the river bank is in New London's Neer Park. Coco logs are being placed to shore up the undercut bank and allow natural vegetation to reclaim and stabilize it. (Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny)2 / 2

NEW LONDON -- Two of New London's biggest attractions have a conflict.

The Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District believes it has the natural solution.

It began restoring the shoreline of Neer Park in New London on Thursday with plans to see native aquatic and upland vegetation take hold on an eroded and undercut shoreline that has been sloughing into the waters of the Crow River.

"A matter of necessity,'' said Mayor Bill Gossman of the project as he stood in ankle-deep water. "The big thing is the shoreline. We want to protect that.''

Gossman was in the water to help Chuck Joswiak of Windscapes, Inver Grove Heights, as they filled meshed tubes with a fine gravel and sand mix. The tubes now line the eroded shoreline in front of the main seating area for the weekly shows by the Little Crow Ski Team.

The nationally known and acclaimed ski team has called the waters of New London's equally appreciated and scenic Mill Pond home since shortly after its beginnings in 1986. But the use of these relatively sheltered waters by power boats for practices and shows have taken a toll.

The waves and energy from the boats are responsible for the erosion occurring along the shoreline in Neer Park, according to Chad Anderson, administrator for the watershed district.

He said the district wanted to find a "win-win'' solution that would both protect the shoreline and allow its continued and safe use by the ski team, while also enhancing the natural beauty of the park.

That prevented turning to the easiest of solutions for the erosion: lining the entire shoreline with rock riprap. That would be far too dangerous for waters with high-speed skiing action taking place, he said.

The solution is a more natural approach. The gravel and sand filled mesh socks that line the area in front of the main area are designed so that rooted upland and aquatic vegetation can take hold in them, according to Vanessa Glieden Henjum, technician with the district.

In late July the district and its helpers will return to the site and plant a variety of native plants in the tubes.

A similar approach is being taken both upstream and downstream of the viewing area. A portion of the peninsula's point, which is removed from the boat and skiing traffic, is lined with rock riprap.

On both sides leading to the peninsula's point, coco logs and another meshed tube product have been added. They too will form the foundation for plantings of native vegetation.

A similar approach is being taken upstream of the viewing area, where the shoreline erosion is more insidious. Much of the bank is undercut. The undercut is so deep that in some places, Anderson can stick his whole arm under it.

Anderson said non-native vegetation such as buckthorn will be removed, and the undercut bank shored up with coco logs. That will allow natural plants to set their roots deep and regain their hold on the bank.

The project will cost an estimated $22,000 to $25,000. The watershed district will use a Clean Water Partnership grant to fund 75 percent of its costs. The city of New London and ski team will share the remainder of the costs.

The watershed district is also undertaking a similar shoreline restoration project in Spicer's Lions Park on Green Lake. It's being undertaken as a public classroom. Informational signs will explain the restoration. It's hoped the project will inspire lake lot owners to consider restoring their private shorelines too.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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