ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – An area of Lilydale Park where two children were killed in a gravel slide is now indefinitely closed while investigators try to determine exactly what happened.
Meanwhile, the St. Paul Parks Department said it never gave any consideration to closing the park in advance of the accident because there have never been any reported problems of gravel slides during other heavy rain episodes.
The Parks Department stressed they had no warning of any danger that there has been no history of anything like this every happening before.
“Prior to the issue yesterday there was no indication on any part that there was any danger such as this that was possible,” Parks Director Mike Hahm said.
The permit that someone at Peter Hobart School signed for fossil digging at Lilydale warns there are hazardous conditions in the park, but Mayor Chris Coleman stressed the language was a general claim about the wild nature of the River Bluff area.
“The language is simply to say when you are in an area, particularly when you are in an area like this, be careful. That is just the natural process. It is not because there was any particular threat or concern,” St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said.
The Parks Department added it had no indication that rain might have weakened any of the bluffs in the fossil hunting area. The Department issues 400 permits for fossil hunting each year and it has never closed Lilydale for weather-related conditions.
Coleman, who lives across the street from the park and who is a frequent visitor, says after a thorough investigation he would like to see the park reopened for fossil digs.
“Any information we can receive that can make it safer for children we will follow up on,” Coleman said.
Among those who will be investigating are soil experts with the Department of Natural Resources.
For now, fossil hunting permits for the next two weeks at Lilydale have been canceled, but that will likely be extended as the investigation continues into what happened.