FARGO — Perhaps it’s appropriate that the biggest city on the border with the Land of 10,000 Lakes has its own.
Plans are under way to do just that as an 80-acre recreational lake — or retention pond — will collect stormwater runoff from a 2,300-acre future development area south of 52nd Avenue and west of Interstate 29.
The expected multiyear effort in the newly expanding part of southwest Fargo is expected to eventually save as much as $2.6 million through a series of open, meandering drainage ditches that will carry water from the vast area of property to a low-lying area.
The savings would come from eliminating multiple lift stations and numerous separate holding ponds.
What's also unique is that the city is working with the Fargo Park District on developing recreational uses for the lake and surrounding area. Other city departments and agencies are also involved.
"The sky's the limit," said Dave Leker, executive director of the park district, explaining what amenities could be part of what he calls a "retention lake" and the 80 acres surrounding it.
Possibilities include kayaking, canoeing, paddle boats, fishing and maybe even a swimming beach.
A loop trail around the lake is also likely, with connections to other multiuse pathways in the area.
The swimming part of the project would present some difficulties with keeping sand in place and water quality, but Leker said "it's not out of the question."
Basically, he said other amenities found in other city parks could be developed in the area, such as horseshoes, sand volleyball courts or bocce ball.
Fishing is also a very real possibility.
North Dakota Game and Fish Department Chief of Fisheries Greg Power said his department already stocks three drainage ponds with fish in the Fargo-West Fargo metro, with two in south Fargo called North and South Woodhaven and one in West Fargo called Brooks Harbor.
The department stocks trout in the spring and also bluegills and perch. A fishing pier is also often installed in such ponds to make them more accessible.
Leker said officials would want to make sure the lake is deep enough to allow fish to survive in winter, but he also thought its size might allow for two fishing piers.
The project traces back publicly to early last year. City Engineer Brenda Derrig says the dream of a lake got a big boost when the city purchased 244 acres of land from Oak Grove Lutheran School in Fargo and Park Christian School in Moorhead for $6.7 million. Both schools were excited about making the sale.
Another boost was the approval of a $4.5 million state clean water revolving fund loan through the Department of Environmental Quality to help develop the 164 acres for the lake and surrounding footprint. The rest of the land is expected to be sold to developers to recoup some of the costs of the project.
Clay-based soil removed for the lake will help cut costs on area street and infrastructure projects, Derrig said. The first use of the soil next year would be for an I-29 overpass to be built on 64th Avenue South in a North Dakota Department of Transportation project.
"It's still in its infancy," Derrig said of the plans.
However, as work starts to pick up in the area south of the newly constructed four-lane on 52nd Avenue South, it's beginning to be more of a priority.
Already, a growing housing development is under way just west of the newest Fargo-Moorhead metro Walmart store next to I-29. Also planned for the area is the proposed Sanford Health sports complex with indoor fields and courts.
Derrig said officials are planning to start work next spring on removing the soil for the lake, but because of the large size of the project she said it will likely be done in four phases. Bids for the first phase are expected to open this winter.
The city's planning department is also involved in the project, according to Director Nicole Crutchfield, who said plans for the development represent a "first for the city."
She said the first look at plans could be ready by this fall. Then developers could begin planning housing, commercial or other projects for the vast stretch of land near Horace and West Fargo.
"It's been really fun with all of us working together," Derrig said about the various officials involved in the planning.
Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the $4.5 million clean water revolving fund loan came from the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality.