The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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March 21, 2011

Best Mankato flood views limited to observation areas

MANKATO — Every spring, when the snow starts melting and the rivers that border Sibley Park start flowing, Jill Salfer and her daughter, Monica, make regular visits to the ball fields side of the park to see how high the water rises.

They usually stroll down to the area where the Blue Earth River empties into the Minnesota River, and the Minnesota makes its hard turn north. An orange plastic fence and bright yellow “POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS” tape stopped them from getting anywhere near the spot Monday.

That portion of the park was closed by Mankato Public Works employees Monday due to flood concerns. Land of Memories Park and the trail between Sibley Park and the new Riverfront Park also were closed.

Safety became a concern in Sibley Park last spring and fall when flood waters were higher than normal. So this year city employees are putting up the police tape to discourage people from going into areas where water is pooling, the ground is slippery and the currents are dangerous, said Tony Talamantez, infrastructure superintendent.

Signs on the walking and biking paths leading into the closed areas say people who walk past the plastic fencing and police tape face a $100 fine.

“We’re trying to urge people to stay away from the river,” Talamantez said. “We know they want to see what’s going on, so we’re setting up observation areas.”

There are observation areas on the west edge of Sibley Park overlooking Land of Memories Park, on the east edge of the park near the intersection of Rogers Street and Sibley Parkway, and at Riverfront Park.

Neither of the Sibley Park observation areas get close to the spot where the Salfers wanted to be Monday. They weren’t happy.

“That’s just wrong,” Jill Salfer said. “I think they should let people walk through the park. If they have to put up ‘At your own risk’ signs, that’s fine. I think most people realize there isn’t going to be someone down there to help if you get into trouble.”

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