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Cleanup targets problems

A crew of workers bundled up against the cold Tuesday for a job that police, environmentalists and city planners hope will help tackle a host of problems along Fargo's downtown riverfront.

A crew of workers bundled up against the cold Tuesday for a job that police, environmentalists and city planners hope will help tackle a host of problems along Fargo's downtown riverfront.

The workers spent Monday and Tuesday clearing a tangle of underbrush and invasive tree growth near the railroad tracks south of Oak Grove Park. Supporters expect the project to benefit public safety, the river's health, pedestrians - even local walleye anglers.

"We want to clean up that area so that the public can begin to use it," said Bob Backman, executive director of River Keepers. "There is a huge effort under way to revitalize the riverfront."

The area has been popular for transient camping and drinking, thanks largely to the brush and tree cover it provided, said Officer Brad Baer. Workers sweep the area two or three times a year for trash, and they return with 30 or 40 bags of it, mostly beer cans or empty bottles of alcohol, Baer said.

Jeff Haberman, Parks and Recreation forester, said the brush clean-up should promote healthier tree growth along the river bank and make it more accessible to the public. His crew targeted invasive species such as buckthorn and box elder to make room for more ash, elm and willow trees.

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"It really hasn't had this type of work done to it," Haberman said.

The work was limited to a two-day window this week, but it'll likely resume on a piecemeal schedule later. The city has a riverfront development plan that calls for new rest areas and more maintained park space - projects that could build off this cleanup, said Bill Mahar, an assistant Fargo planner.

The city's plans include an addition next year to the bike path through Oak Grove, Mahar said. That section would complete a circular route through Fargo and Moorhead.

This week's riverfront cleanup should also please anglers who like to cast from the Red's banks in Fargo.

"That corner is one of the hottest walleye fishing spots in Fargo-Moorhead, but you can't easily access it because of the thistle and underbrush," Backman said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Forster at (701) 241-5538

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