Residents stranded by washout found challenges 'kind of fun'For six days, life on West Skyline Parkway past Spirit Mountain slowed way down for the residents living on the section of road with large swaths washed away by last June’s flooding.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
For six days, life on West Skyline Parkway past Spirit Mountain slowed way down for the residents living on the section of road with large swaths washed away by last June’s flooding.
Because of washouts on either end of a quarter-mile stretch, vehicles couldn’t enter or leave, making residents somewhat isolated in the heavily wooded area with no other connecting roads. Getting out to buy groceries and to make it to work became the first obstacle to tackle.
That meant climbing down a steep embankment, crossing the stream and climbing back up. Then you needed someone to pick you up, a rental car or plenty of time to walk. Young residents Jacob and Connor Stover set up stones to make crossing the water easier and installed ropes to cling to for climbing. They also carved steps into the land.
“Everyone in the neighborhood was using them,” Scott Kylander-Johnson said last week. During those few days, he carried his bike up and down the ravine to ride to work at the Marshall School. “You’d think it would be a little more cumbersome. We just took the attitude, ‘Hey, what do you do?’ No one got hurt; it was the perfect story.”
The Stover boys helped deliver mail, and if anyone needed a hand carrying anything up the ravine, neighbors pitched in. Residents with four-wheelers offered to travel through the woods to nearby convenience stores for groceries.
“If someone needed help you helped; the neighborhood has been that way, anyway,” Alice Stover, the boys’ mother, said.
Russ Stover, a former city councilor who lives between the washouts, uses a wheelchair. He was homebound all six days, unable to get to work, and had food delivered by relatives.
“It wasn’t that bad,” he said. “It was very similar to being snowbound with 70-degree, sunny weather.”
There had been some worry that emergency services would have difficulty reaching the area, and plans had been put in place to use a helicopter or four-wheelers through the woods. Emergency services weren’t needed, residents said. People refrained from things like bonfires, Alice Stover said, and generally were a lot more careful those few days.
The whole ordeal, Kylander-Johnson said, “was kind of fun.”
Compared to what happened elsewhere in the city, the residents of West Skyline Parkway were inconvenienced but didn’t lose homes or possessions, he said.
“If we had been isolated for a month, I am sure our attitudes would have changed,” he said. “We were so thankful with the speed of the repair.”
In less than a week, the first washout, which was more than 50 feet long and 25 feet deep, was fixed with a 48-inch concrete culvert replacing a 42-inch steel culvert. Rock stabilized the base, and sand was brought in for fill before loads of gravel, then blacktop, rebuilt the road. On the other end at the stone-arch Stewart Creek Bridge — which remains closed — restoration work planned before the flood is being carried out with some changes because of the flooding.
The flood washed out much of the road leading up to the bridge and displaced some of the paving stones for the nearby monument honoring former Mayor Samuel Snively, said Lisa Karlgaard, a structural designer and engineer at LHB in Duluth and the project manager for the bridge, working for the city.
The flood didn’t damage the bridge itself, she said, but did cause erosion to the slopes around it. Restoration work — which includes excavating the inside of the stone bridge and waterproofing it and removing and replacing mortar — also includes adding large boulders and fill to the land around it to prevent more erosion. No work has been done on the bridge built in 1919 and named to the National Register of Historic Places since is construction, Karlgaard said. Federal Scenic Byway money is paying for the work to the bridge and monument at a cost of $900,000. The city is paying about 20 percent of that. Work on each is expected to be done by September.
Neighbors said they haven’t been negatively affected by the closure of the bridge. It has been a quiet year, with no one able to drive through and have noisy parties at the overlook, for example, and it has made for less traffic.
The washouts appeared to bring the 13 affected households closer, residents said last week. A neighborhood barbecue was held after the first washout was fixed, and a year later those who didn’t know each other too well before the flood are more apt to make conversation when running into each other, Alice Stover said.
“Seems like every month or so someone brings it up,” she said. “We have good stories to tell.”
This week's stories
Sunday: How the flood happened, the state of our roads and homes. Where are they now: Fond Du Lac
Monday: Restoring our streams. Where are they now: Skyline Parkway
Tuesday: A book about the Brookston flood. Where are they now: Knife River
Wednesday: Where are they now: Superior
Thursday: The state of our zoo. Where are they now: Thomson
Friday: Jay Cooke State Park