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Flooded bar and cafe at Mouse River Park will be demolished

The Country Mouse Bar and the Mouse River Park Cafe have served guests for decades and survived a handful of floods through the years, but the Mouse River flood of 2011 proved to be too much for them. On September 6th, the Mouse River Park Board approved a motion to demolish both buildings.

9/14/11 (Wed)

 
Leave your dancing shoes at home . . . The wooden floor in the
Country Mouse Bar at Mouse River Park buckled and warped as
a result of floodwaters in June and July.  The high water mark can
be seen on the paneling, but mold and mildew climbed higher
up the walls and onto the ceiling.  Furniture was tumbled by
the river's current.  FEMA repair estimates for the county's facilities
at the Park, including the bar and cafe, came in at $225,000 and
do not include replacing the destroyed contents of the buildings.

 

 

By Caroline Downs
 
The Country Mouse Bar and the Mouse River Park Cafe have served guests for decades and survived a handful of floods through the years, but the Mouse River flood of 2011 proved to be too much for them.
 
On September 6th, the Mouse River Park Board approved a motion to demolish both buildings.
 
“The plan is to have the buildings taken down this fall,” said Kristy Titus, Renville County Emergency Manager. “We’re reviewing different options to put in new facilities.”
 
Previous floods tended to recede faster, and Park residents have told stories about the years when a neighbor could run his boat into the bar or the auditorium. This year, however, the water level stayed high for weeks.
 
“That was a major factor in the damage that’s been done,” Titus said. “This flood had a lot of effect, both inside and structurally on the outside of the buildings.”
 
Renville County owns the buildings used by the public at Mouse River Park. The bar and the cafe are leased to operators each summer, but the county is responsible for meeting the state’s health codes. In order to pass inspection by the North Dakota Department of Health and serve food and beverages to the public, a great deal of work would be necessary to make repairs.
 
According to Titus, FEMA estimates to repair the cafe and bar came in at $225,000. “That doesn’t include the contents that were lost in the flood,” she said, “and those were the costs just to bring the buildings back to the way they were pre-disaster. We know there are issues with the buildings related to the roof, the sides and structural problems.”
 
The cost estimates also do not take into account any landscaping or tree removal or replanting expenses, as FEMA does not pay for those items.
 
FEMA and the state would both provide funds for the repair project in a cost-share arrangement with Renville County, with FEMA paying 90 percent, the state 4 percent, and the county the remaining 6 percent. Following a successful inspection, the state would then reimburse the county another 3 percent.
 
“We want to utilize the funds we receive as the county’s cost share in the best way we can,” Titus said. “It’s a matter of being wise with the money. We also have to consider putting all that money into repairing those facilities and [a flood event] could happen again.”
 
The Park board is considering ideas that include separate bar and cafe facilities, as well as one building that would house both establishments. “The goal is to still have a restaurant and to still have a bar,” Titus said.
 
She understands some Park visitors and area residents will be unhappy with the board’s decision. “Those buildings have been there a long time, and people have a lot of memories in them,” she said. “I know it’s hard for people to let go, but the new buildings that get put up will be a place to make new memories.”
 
She continued, “I think most people understand the state the buildings are in.”
 
No demolition date was scheduled as of press time, but Titus hoped the work could be completed during September. Before the buildings come down, a few items will be saved. “The Park board members and Darrell [Iverson, Park caretaker] will be going through the facilities and see what can be salvaged,” said Titus. “Whatever we can save, we want to be able to do that, and there are some things people have requested be kept.”
 
She laughed as she described what she wanted to preserve. “I want to save some of the wood, even some that was stained by the flood,” she said. “Despite all the damage, this was an historic event. I’m hoping in my lifetime we don’t see it again, but people will talk about it for generations.”
 
By tearing down the bar and cafe buildings this fall, the site can be prepared for building next spring. “With the shape those buildings are in, that’s a bad memory,” Titus said. “It’s a long process for the Park board, especially when dealing with state and federal money, and there are a lot of requirements and rules the county has to follow, but I’d like to see that we could start fresh [with construction] in the spring.”
 
She posted photos of damage to the interiors of the bar, cafe and auditorium on the Renville County Facebook page last week. She admitted she waited to share those photos until recently because of the impact they would have on longtime Park visitors and residents.
 
“A lot of people haven’t seen the inside of those facilities,” she said. “These pictures will help them understand the condition of the buildings.”
 
It’s going to take some time
Some of the county facilities survived the Mouse River soaking with relatively little damage. “The auditorium looks really good,” said Titus. “Darrell’s crew has been in there, cleaning and sweeping. It’s such a unique building, and the gazebo just needs a little bit of work now.”
 
The bath house is looking better and has been functional since early August. The camping pedestals, all of which were submerged, will be replaced next.
 
“We have to have an electrician look at them,” Titus said. “We’re hoping to have people down there camping and enjoying the Park as much as they can next spring. I know the Park board wants people to be down there. That’s their goal.”
 
One surprise for Titus is the condition of the dike, which was submerged by the river but came through relatively unharmed. “I cannot believe how green the grass is on the sides of the dike,” said Titus. “They’ve even mowed it! There are a lot of weeds growing throughout the rest of the Park, but there is grass coming up and some of the trees are looking better.”
 
Many of the Park’s residents have already cleaned up their property, but a few ventured to the Park only recently for the first look at their devastated cabins and trailers. Titus expected most of them to remove the flooded buildings, with the majority of structures in the Park beyond any hope of repair.
 
“I know it’s an overwhelming task for them,” she said, “and some are waiting to see what will happen because decisions are being made now about flood control down there. I think there will be a lot of spots to fill.”
 
Many of the residents have commented to Titus about the terrible condition of the area. Titus sees the improvements, though, from the first days after the water receded. “It’s looks a lot better than what it did,” she said. “It’s just going to take some time.”
 
And the Mouse River impacted more than just the Park in the county, with Renville County damages exceeding $1.5 million, including county and township roads, bridges and the Park. “That’s our estimate with FEMA,” Titus said. “Our entire county has had issues with the flooding.”
 
West entrance remains closed
One of the roads washed out by the river provides the west access into the Park. A portion of the road was designed to be a spillway, but four months of fast-running water destroyed the road bed and left holes and sandbars in its wake.
 
“The Renville County Water Resource Board is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to see what can be done to the road and how it can be repaired,” said Titus. “That road really took a beating. I’m actually surprised some of the road is still there.”
 
While most of the road is under the jurisdiction of Renville County, the section of road used as part of the Park’s flood control plan is administered by the Corps of Engineers. No timeline for road repairs has been established yet.
 
No other portions of the flood control structures sustained damage in the flood, and Titus even suggested to members of the water resource board that some of the stop logs could be removed to allow for better river flow through the Park.
 
However, the board members pointed out the river’s elevation to her. “When I go down to the Park now, the water looks so low,” Titus said, laughing at how her perspective has changed, “but it’s still higher than what it should be!”
 
Successful fundraiser,
donations still requested
About 200 people turned out at Hunter Haven on the evening of September 3rd, to support a fundraiser for the Mouse River Park Recovery. Propane Services Inc. of Mohall, owned by Tom and Judy Gehringer, sponsored the event. 
 
For the price of a free-will donation, guests enjoyed corn, buffalo, elk, pork, potatoes, salads, chips and buns. Karaoke was provided by Mike O'Clair. A raffle and silent auction were also held.
 
About $3000.00 was raised during the evening and all proceeds from the event will go towards the recovery efforts at the Mouse River Park.
 
The following individuals and businesses donated items for the raffle, silent auction, and feed: Jim Burbidge, Mau Elk Ranch, Hunter Haven, Propane Services, Mike’s Mic (Mike O'Clair), Citizens State Bank, Mohall Fire Department, Farmers Union Insurance, Gooseneck Implement, Renville Elevator in Tolley, Northern Plains Railroad, Gate City Bank, National Oilwell Supply, Engh’s Hardware, Heisler Auto, Buelow Repair, Lamb Honey Farm, Pioneer Drilling, Drinks Inc., Ben and Jessica Fitzsimmons, Johnson Plumbing, SunPrairie Grain, Simply Petals, Flower House Garden Center, Bottineau Farmers Elevator, Shawn Raap, Tina Lenton, BCI, Tracy's Market, Haarsager Farms and Al Dissette.
 
Those who helped prepare the food and do the setup included Cliff and Teri Wenstad, Les O'Brien, Gary Buelow, George Isaakson, TJ Gehringer, and MANY others!!
 
The Mouse River Park Recovery T-shirts, along with the DVDs showing photos of the flood at the Park, are still for sale at the Renville County Courthouse or Diane’s Snip-N-Go Salon in Mohall. Cash contributions are appreciated, too.
 
Titus said the county has set up an account for any money or donations received, but no specific projects have been designated for those funds yet. “It will be used for recovery at the Park,” she said. “We have a lot of work to do.”
 
She paused and then added, “The recovery is a lot more work than what we tried to do to prevent it from happening.”
 

No meals served this year . . . The Mouse River Park Cafe sustained considerable
damage from the 2011 flood, with mud coating the floor, mold growing on
the walls and fixtures rearranged at the will of the river's flow.
Even the drooping ceiling fan blades show the effects of the Mouse River.