0908 poll results

The Free Press

A majority of area respondents believe the city of North Mankato made the right call in reopening Judson Bottom Road.

Out of 266 total respondents, 228 voters — almost 86% — support the city’s decision to reopen the road, which had been closed since the spring due to repeated landslides and rock falls caused by severe storms. Only 38 voters disagreed with the city.

The North Mankato City Council approved reopening the road last week. City officials presented a plan to the council to keep the road open for now. Staff plan to install metal swing gates on both sides of a one-mile section of road between Valerie Lane and Lookout Drive to close the road in case of flooding and future landslides.

Additional signage has already been posted on the road warning drivers of falling boulders. Workers will install the metal gates later this year. The road has been designated a minimum maintenance road since 1993.

North Mankato regularly closes Judson Bottom Road in the spring due to flooding. Yet boulders and evidence of large landslides between Valerie Lane and the bottom of Lookout Drive spurred city officials to study the nearby bluffs before opening the road once more after the road closed in March.

Since then, several storms caused boulders weighing 10 to 20 tons or more to slide down.

Area consultants examined the bluffs earlier this year and offered some temporary solutions to the ongoing erosion problems. Yet there’s no long-term solution that would guarantee residents’ safety when traveling on the road. While stormwater doesn’t naturally run off onto Judson Bottom Road, all that precipitation is getting into the rock, eroding the bluffs from the inside out.

Residents who live near Judson Bottom Road said after the meeting they were relieved the area would open once more. Several spoke out at recent council meetings about the road’s role as a vital corridor for residents to get to and from Mankato.

The Free Press online question, sent out Friday, asked, “Do you agree with North Mankato’s decision to reopen Judson Bottom Road?”

There were two options to answer, “yes” or “no.”

Commenters largely agreed the road should be reopened, although several noted the dangers in traveling through Judson Bottom won’t go away any time soon.

“There are a number of factors to be considered,” Paul Brandon wrote. “One is safety and liability. It’s easy to say that people should be allowed to use the road at their own risk, but I suspect that a lawyer would say that if the city keeps the road open they could be held liable for any foreseeable accidents that occur. The other is cost. How much would it cost the city per person/mile to maintain the road, compared to other roads?”

Others said the road was simply too much of a natural attraction to keep closed, even if landslides are taking place at an accelerated pace.

Karen Frydendall wrote, “(It should be open) with precautions to prevent boulders from smashing down on me! It’s North Mankato’s best natural (and birdwatching) location.”

Mike Lagerquist wrote, “Obviously, there is still a danger to drivers along this stretch of roadway, so they should proceed with caution. But concerns expressed by residents or those with family members nearby necessitated the road’s reopening. As long as I can remember, that stretch was posted with warnings of ‘falling rocks.’ That activity must continue with increased diligence.”

“This is a beautiful stretch of road,” Gary Lindsay wrote. “Why not spend a little money to keep it up? One argument for not keeping it up was the danger of falling rocks. That was kind of silly. They city was going to keep it for a bicycle/foot path. I for one would rather I get hit by a rock while in my car rather than on a bike or walking!”