Campers line the streets and fill the parking lot at Pettibone Park Resort near La Crosse, Wis., where the operators have been ordered to remove every RV, picnic table and fire pit from the path of the rising floodwaters of the Mississippi River.
The public campground that’s been at the center of a city-led crackdown now is the model riverfront tenant as the water creeps up, according to the La Crosse Tribune.
But across the bridge at Pettibone Boat Club and up the Black River near Copeland Park, 40-foot trailers, grills, sheds, portable toilets and propane tanks are partially submerged or on the verge.
Many of the items weren’t supposed to be stored in the floodway in the first place, said La Crosse Planning and Inspections Director Larry Kirch. All of them need to be removed before they float downstream.
“This stuff shouldn’t have been there, especially now that the water’s coming up to 12 feet. And some of it is already too late to move,” Kirch said. “Folks that use property along the river should know this. They should know better.”
Inspection crews were sent to the boat club and the row of boat houses near Copeland Park, behind Hardee’s and at the Isle la Plume slough. They found tables and chairs, lumber barrels, playground equipment, gas cans, boats, basketball hoops and trash along the riverbanks.
The violators have been given until Monday or Tuesday to move their belongings to higher ground or they could be fined $500 per violation.
“We’re doing the best we can to enforce the rules,” said Steve Carlyon, director of parks and recreation, noting the entire city could be penalized if it fails to comply with FEMA regulations.
Pettibone Park Resort has had to pull everything – 200 picnic tables and more than 100 recreational vehicles – to higher elevations, even those without even a tire that’s underwater.
The rules for campgrounds in the floodway are specific and strict.
They’ve done a great job meeting the conditions of their evacuation plan, Carlyon said.
But it was a time-consuming and intensive process for the campground, much of which remains dry.
“It’s very frustrating, because so many of the sites weren’t under water, but because it was part of the evacuation plan and we agreed to it, we had to move them,” said operator Kristin Pretasky, who just wants the city to take an even-handed approach.
“I will be interested to know if they actually do get fined,” she said of those who haven’t complied.