Hill erodes

Jim Hopfauf, left, and David Wolf look over soil erosion behind their Arizona Drive homes in 2016. The men say Hay Creek is causing the erosion and is undermining the hill.

The Bismarck Park Board is contemplating the removal of a trail in north Bismarck that has succumbed to Hay Creek. Though the project has entered the design and bid phase, negotiations continue between the board and two Arizona Drive homeowners, who are each being asked to pay about $80,000 for a slope stabilization project on their properties, which also would restore the trail.

Jim Hopfauf, whose home was built in 2004, has seen about one-third of his property fall into Hay Creek. Neighbor David Wolf’s backyard is also slipping into the creek. Negotiations have been ongoing for months, as both homeowners have declined several of the board's offers to assist in stabilizing the slope.

"The trees and everything are in the creek now," said Hopfauf earlier this year. "I wake up every morning and have to look at that. It's a bad situation."

Houston Engineering was hired to study the area at a cost of $21,000, and four alternative fixes were presented to the board in October.

The first alternative is to abandon the trail entirely.

“Doing no work at all has no current cost, but it has a long-term subsequent cost,” said Michael Gunsch, project manager of Houston Engineering. “You will have material that, ultimately, will slide down the slope, and you’re going to have trees taken out, and you’re going to have an exposed erosion issue and you’ll have material in the creek that will affect the golf course.”

The second alternative, at a cost of $210,000, is stabilizing the properties to the south of the Hopfauf and Wolf properties. This option does not restore the trail.

“During the geotechnical analysis, we identified there are some stability risks to several residences to the south,” Gunsch said. “It’s not significantly serious, but they need to be addressed. Otherwise, the future conditions could also jeopardize some things there.”

The third alternative, at a cost of $470,000, includes stabilizing the southern properties and restoring the trail to the point that it would be back in place and functional.

The fourth alternative, at a cost of about $600,000, offers full protection to the north and south homeowners, as well as full restoration of the trail. It’s the solution being negotiated by the board and homeowners.

The estimated project costs include Houston Engineering’s initial study fee.

Wolf recently wrote a letter to the board, stating he's "more than willing" to pay the dollar amount being requested by the board. However, both homeowners need to sign the original agreement, said Chairman Wayne Munson.

"My heart goes out to him. I feel bad. Unfortunately, we on this commission have to make hard decisions, so that we’re taking care of the rest of the residents as well," Munson said.

In the event that Hopfauf and Wolf decide not to participate in the slope stabilization project, the board is interested in moving forward with either alternative two or three.

Abandoning the trail, as described in alternative two, would involve removing all the pavement, regrading the area and planting it back to grass.

Houston Engineering has been hired by the board to do the design work, and a bid opening for alternatives two and three is tentatively scheduled for January.

The Bismarck Park Board meets at 5:15 p.m. today in the Tom Baker Meeting Room of the City/County Building to discuss the project.


General Assignment Reporter