TCR/SCOTT BESTUL
Pictured above is the site of Rushford’s new canoe launch, just east of the Hwy. 43 bridge crossing the Root River. Brush and trees have been cleared out this fall, but work at the launch is done for the year. The project will resume next spring.
TCR/SCOTT BESTUL Pictured above is the site of Rushford’s new canoe launch, just east of the Hwy. 43 bridge crossing the Root River. Brush and trees have been cleared out this fall, but work at the launch is done for the year. The project will resume next spring.
If you’ve noticed some industrial-grade landscaping on the east side of the Hwy 43 bridge crossing the Root River, you’re not imagining things. The cleared area—which extends from south of the levee to the river bank— is the site of Rushford’s new canoe launch.

Though Public Works Director Roger Knutson and his crew began work on the site this fall, the project has actually been in the works since 2014, according to Rushford City Clerk Kathy Zacher.

“The city started discussions then about building a new canoe launch just east of the Hwy. 43 bridge, Zacher said. “Many people thought the current canoe launch was too distant from downtown.”

Rushford’s current launch is located further upriver and, in addition to being difficult to locate, doesn’t offer easy access to downtown businesses and amenities.

While city officials liked the idea of a new launch site, they consulted with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) before taking action, according to Zacher.

“The DNR felt this was a good place to relocate the launch and discussed the idea of turning the existing launch into a fishing site. The City contracted with Barr Engineering to do a preliminary study and to start getting input from other government agencies that would need to give approval. The plan would include building a road up and over the levee system and would include displacing some of the holding area for the levee ponding area and would need Corps of Engineer approval with hydraulic modeling, etc.

“The DNR needed to give approval as we would be working within state waterways. They’d also be able to provide some assistance with amenities for the area. We also needed to do a wetland delineation study for the area. Barr Engineering started these plans and conducted some of these studies; they were the firm working on the levee mitigation project and this area was linked to that. Bolton-Menk Engineering is now the primary City engineering firm and has taken over the rest of the planning.”

Once the new launch was approved, it was just a matter of getting some free time for the Public Works crew to start work. “It’s kind of been on hold, since we have to work around our day-to-day operations before tackling a project like this,” Knutson said. “We finally we got a window of opportunity this year, between fall and winter.”

Knutson said his five-man crew examined the site and the plans before setting to work. “The engineers had already staked the road and the outlines of the launch site,” he said. “So we had to decide which trees needed to be removed; there were a lot of box elders that were in bad shape and needed to come out, but we wanted to leave enough trees that it still looked nice. We ended up taking out about 50 trees, piling them up and burning the piles. Then we came in with a bulldozer and removed the stumps. We’re pretty much done down there for this year and will hopefully finish up next spring.

Currently, members of the “Sentence To Serve” crew—comprised of persons serving time in county/state correctional facilities—are removing additional trees and brush from the general launch area. Knutson said this work will further clean up the site and give it even more eye appeal.

The projected cost of the launch is $22,000, according Zacher. Much of that expense will be covered by a State Park Grant that the city was awarded in the spring of 2016. “The grant is through the Dept. of Transportation and DNR and requires the County Engineer to review the plans and oversee the project,” Zacher said. “This transportation aid (up to $99,200.00) covers only the roadway which means the City must pay for the launch and parking lot construction.”

Knutson said the actual “look” of the launch might take a season or two to figure out. “That area can get some high water, so we’re not sure if it’s best to pave it or have gravel or something softer for the actual launch itself,” he said. “We’re talking to people about this, but it might be a matter of just seeing how the water behaves there. The actual parking lot will be gravel and pretty low-maintenance. We’ll have to mow the area in summer and just do general upkeep.”

While the launch might result in a little extra work for his crew, Knutson is excited about the project. “I’m all for it,” he said. “I think it will be a much more visible and accessible launch, and it could be a real benefit for the city.”