Normally I’m the type of person who thinks that people should be responsible for their own actions. However, there are cases in which the community should take preventive action to avoid stupid accidents and deaths. In this case, I’m talking about the Riverside Dam in Grand Forks, North Dakota. There is enough current in that location that the river never freezes, and the river is basically used as a highway for snowmobilers.
Today while hiking near the river I noticed a set of old snowmobile tracks that went into the open water, and I’m not totally sure if the snowmobiler made it across or not. Last year two snowmobilers went in at the same location. So far there have not been any fatalities that I know of, but it is only a matter of time until some unlucky snowmobiler losses track of where they are on the river and get sucked under the ice. It is not very deep, but it would be easy to be thrown from the sled swept under the ice by the strong current.
It is purely negligent to not have warnings up all over the place. Open water sings with blockades should be posted up and down river from the dam. There will surely be an accidental death in the future that could have been avoided if something is not done.
I was talking to a snowmobiler on the tail, and he mentioned that the cities could not post signs because they could be held liable for accidents. It is my opinion that they should be held liable for not having the location marked.
Unfortunately, I do not know much about law, but it seems that this sort of thing should almost be covered under something like the Good Samaritan Law. It is just common sense that the area should be well marked, and posting signage should not make anyone liable. I might take the time to call the city and the police department to see if anything can be done.
Decide for yourself. Does this seem like a good idea?
I’m sure others have noticed the same problem. Make some calls if you would like to help.
Why I care…
Unfortunately, I had a similar experience in 2005 when I noticed a section of road construction on highway 19 near Minnewaukan that was poorly, but legally marked. I was a Park Ranger and worked the night shift. I hit the section about 1 a.m. on my way home. Lucky I wasn’t going very fast. I remember telling my mom that someone would die because of the way that road was marked and sure enough within the week someone ramped off the road and drown at the intersection of Highway 281 and 19. Unfortunately this was a stupid death that never should have happened.
I didn’t talk to the right people. I’ll try not to make the same mistakes twice.