An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 boaters, floaters and paddlers arrive or launch out of Osceola Landing on the St. Croix River every year according to the National Park Service. With issues of safety hazards, flooding and more, the National Park Service has announced a major project to update and renovate Osceola Landing.
“The reason we’re doing the project is really to increase safety for the visitors at the landing, improving operations for commercial use and to enhance how people use and experience the landing, whether they’re coming off the water, launching a boat, fishing or just walking around,” says Superintendent for the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, Julie Galonska.
“Osceola landing is one of our busiest landings on the St. Croix River,” she said during a presentation at the Oct. 8 Village of Osceola meeting. “A lot of the people who visit are there for paddling experiences, motorized boat launching, or just enjoying the landing. Because of the volume of people we have there, and because of the number of commercial service providers, we have had a lot of close calls.”
Those ‘close calls’ Galonska is referring to are a result of overcrowding of people near either launch, both of which are used for motorized and non-motorized watercraft. Because everything is happening in the same place, boaters, paddlers and visitors alike are intertwined causing confusion and creating dangerous situations.
“We’re taking a look at how to improve that situation. We are redesigning the landing to separate the motorized and non-motorized launches, improve drop-off, pick-up, and waiting of passengers for commercial business providers, and we will take a look at the day use area as well – those areas where people want to picnic, fish, or just hang out.”
The proposed project will take an estimated three years to complete. In addition to the launch itself, roadways, paths, trails, and trees will all be addressed. “There are a lot of hazard trees at Osceola landing,” says Galonska. “A lot of those trees are nearing the end of their life, and we don’t want a treeless landing, so we will plan for tree succession as part of what we’re doing.”
Another major issue of concern for the community is the constant flooding of Osceola landing, which the project intends to address. “How we deal with flooding is a big part of this project,” Galonska says, “Osceola landing floods regularly. Unfortunately over the last few years we’ve had significant flooding during the summer and fall.”
Though flooding isn’t always preventable, Golonska says that prevention isn’t the way to tackle the issue. “I don’t think it’s a matter of trying to prevent flooding as much as it is designing for flooding,” she said. “The way the landing is right now, the north end where the bridge is floods less frequently. The rest of the landing floods a lot more frequently. So I think we’re trying to understand the flooding and then figure out the best design that will be as resilient as possible.”
A 30 day public commentary period will open Friday, Oct. 18, followed by a public meeting Tuesday Nov. 5 at the Osceola Medical Center meeting rooms from 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. There, community members will have the opportunity to review and discuss three draft options for the new Osceola Landing and listen to a presentation at 5:15 p.m.
“We hope that people will really get engaged in the project to help us figure out the best solutions to some of these really critical issues we have,” said Galonska.