Officials in St. Paul face a decision on whether to re-open part of a park where two children were killed in a landslide, as debate about the cause of the tragedy continues.
Schoolchildren Haysem Sani, 9, and Mohamed Fofana, 10, died while on a field trip at Lilydale Regional Park with their Peter Hobart Elementary School classmates in May last year, after the land beneath them collapsed and swept them into a hole.
This week, consulting firm Barr Engineering Co. presented a series options to the City of St. Paul regarding the next steps for the 50-acre fossil grounds at the park, where the landslip occurred, the Pioneer Press reports.
The options include keeping part of the park permanently closed, restricting its use, having a monitoring program to detect any issues, mechanically stabilizing slopes, and several suggestions for managing stormwater and stabilizing trails, the newspaper notes.
A final report from Barr will be submitted to the city in January, at which point officials will have to make a decision on the park's future.
Brad Meyer, of the city's parks and recreation department, told the Press: "We have been clear that although we want to reopen this area, we want to avoid another tragic accident.
"We need to understand the likelihood of it happening again, how we can mitigate it and what risks there are."
Geologist claims official cause of landslide is wrong
A geologist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource has said that man-made factors could have played a significant role in causing the bluff at the park to collapse.
Speaking to MPR, Carrie Jennings said that the presence of dry sand at the site of the landslide in the immediate aftermath undermines a conclusion made by Northern Technologies Inc., which was commissioned by the city to investigate the causes of the disaster.
The Northern Technologies conclusion was that man-made factors were not at the root of the landslide, and instead that it was likely caused by soil erosion exacerbated by heavy rain, the Star Tribune reports.
But Jennings told MPR that this premise was based on the idea that the ground on the bluff was saturated, and the presence of dry sand suggests this theory was incorrect.
Just last month, the city settled with the fourth and final victim of the landslide, approving a $20,000 to the family of fourth-grader Lucas Lee, who suffered an ankle injury in the incident.
Previously the city had approved $400,000 payments to each of the Sani and Fofana families, and a $200,000 payment to 10-year-old Devin Meldahl, who suffered injuries including a fractured skull.