Discuss future use of landNorth Dakota’s minimum security prison, the Missouri River Correctional Center, appears destined to move adjacent to the expanded penitentiary in 2011 or beyond. Lawmakers recommended the next Legislature fund moving the MRCC.
By: The Bismarck Tribune, The Jamestown Sun
North Dakota’s minimum security prison, the Missouri River Correctional Center, appears destined to move adjacent to the expanded penitentiary in 2011 or beyond. Lawmakers recommended the next Legislature fund moving the MRCC.
Relocating the MRCC isn’t much of a public issue one way or the other, but many people are concerned about what will happen to the riverfront property near Fox Island when and if the MRCC picks up and leaves.
Fortunately, there’s time to figure out the right use for the former minimum security prison. The process leading to making that choice should include frank appraisals of the options, as well as a wide range of methods for collecting public opinion. Given how important the result will be to the people of Bismarck-Mandan, there should be public meetings and hearings. If the conflict during the legislative session over moving the MRCC is any indicator, there will be significant disagreement over crafting a future for the property. However, if everyone gets to speak their mind, and the process is open and public, it may be possible to reach a successful conclusion.
Developers, home builders and real estate companies will have eyes on the property, looking to build apartments, houses and, likely, a marina, all a stone’s throw from the Missouri River.
Waterfront development has been a very strong part of the local real estate market in recent years. The property is valuable, and the state would be able to turn a tidy profit from the sale of the land.
And there are those who are interested in more public access to the river parks, campgrounds, boat ramps. This kind of family, outdoors venue speaks to quality of life issues for many North Dakotans. Fishing, boating and other outdoor activities are strong motivators among local residents. For them, turning the MRCC property into some kind of public area would be the right choice.
Other possibilities could be percolating amongst people and interest groups of all kinds. But we will not know that unless we shake the tree of public ideas.
While what happens to the state land under the former minimum security prison has heightened relevance for the people of Bismarck-Mandan and this region, it needs to be kept in mind that everyone in the state has at least an indirect interest in what happens. And certainly the Legislature will have meetings and proposals. But that doesn’t restrict or prohibit the city or county from doing the same.
Because they aren’t making any more riverfront property there will be tremendous pressure on this decision. And, if a consensus can be reached locally, it may be necessary to lobby the Legislature for that particular choice.
It’s important that the public discussion about the future of the MRCC begin soon.