BIG FALLS – A project that will expand and upgrade a Koochiching County campground is underway in Big Falls.
The Big Falls Campground project, which has been in the works since 2016, began Monday with ground work and infrastructure for new sites. Once completed, the campground will consist of 30 sites connected to the city's sanitary sewer system.
“This project has been a long time in the making,” said city Clerk Joan Nelson. “It's exciting to see it all come to fruition.”
The nearly $1.3 million grant from the Minnesota Park and Trail Legacy Grant Program will fund:
- Acquisition of 10 adjoining riverside acres, which was purchased in 2018
- A net increase of 11 campsites, all with 50 amp electrical hookups, as well as water at most sites
- Three Americans with Disabilities Act compliant camp sites
- Installation of an RV dump station
- Abandonment of the existing sanitary sewer treatment system and connection to the city’s sanitary sewer system
- Construction of a new restroom/shower house/visitor center building
- Demolition and abatement of old buildings on the land – and also well sealing
The project has come a long way over the years, Nelson said.
In 2016, the site was designated as a regional park. The designation is a competitive pool, and set the site up for the ability to apply for the legacy funds.
Nelson said components of the grant application that made the Big Falls Campground attractive to those selecting the projects for the grants were plans to abandon the old sanitary treatment system and connect to the city's system.
“It's a lot better for river health,” Nelson said of the Bigfork River that runs alongside the campground. “Having some ADA accessible sites was another big component to why we received the grant.”
While there have been high points of the nearly four-year long process, there have also been hurdles.
While working with the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office, areas of archaeological significance were located near the Bigfork River, causing the restructure of plans.
“There is one area near the river that is archaeologically sensitive,” Nelson said. “We had to redo the plans so we wouldn't disturb that area.”
In addition, when bids for the project came in too high, plans had to be redone to fit the budget.
The project is also starting during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been a challenge for the campground.
“We're short on revenue after having to be closed for several months,” Nelson said. “Even now, we're only open to RVs with onboard bathrooms and the shower house is still closed.”
And while the pandemic has created financial headaches, it also allows time for construction.
“Due to this project, there's about six sites that we can't rent out now because of construction,” Nelson said. “That does work out well with numbers down.”
The project will move quickly with a wrap-up date anticipated for the end of September. Rock blasting is scheduled for next week and Nelson said she plans to get information out to residents prior.
“It's going to be a busy month and we do anticipate some inconveniences to campers, we just can't avoid that,” Nelson said. “But after this long process, we are so excited and thrilled for our community. This is going to be a great project that only enhances the wonderful campground we have.”