What’s the Future of the South Side Parking Lot?


Zoe Booth

Fargo North High’s south side parking lot.

Our school has gone through several changes throughout the recent years. Whether it’s caused by the coronavirus pandemic or changes in positions of power inside the school, North isn’t the same as it was four years ago. These changes have made our school moderately flexible but this year there is a certain issue that is the talk (well, more so complaint) of the school: the south side parking lot.

The reconstruction of our southern parking lot has been in progress since June of this year. What was intended to be a summer project is now becoming an inconvenience to the typical student’s school routine. Instead of being able to walk straight from your car to the south door, now students have to walk around the parking lot using the sidewalk by the coliseum and the fitness center.

In my experience, I’ve noticed that it takes an average of 5 minutes to get from your car in the south parking lot to the south doors. While only 5 minutes, these minutes can be the difference between being late to a club, meeting, or even a class.

There’s also an issue with the weather. As the temperatures are getting colder, our concerns for whether or not the parking lot is going to be done soon are growing. Ranging from windy to snowy to icy, everyone who’s lived here for at least a year knows what a typical Fargo winter consists of. While no one wants to walk in the cold for longer than necessary when in the parking lot, there’s also the problem when it comes to the students who have been walking and biking to school these past couple of months.

What’s going to happen when it’s too cold to bike and walk? This parking lot situation has been manageable thus far but with more students needing to use cars for the colder seasons, how much longer can the south side parking lot go on being unfinished? Being the biggest parking lot, the south side lot was always intended for the majority of student’s cars. Will we have enough parking spots for everyone?

And what does this all mean for the future of the south side parking lot? Will it even be done by the time the school year ends? With these questions looming in the student’s heads, I decided to attempt to find some answers via an interview from the head of the school himself, Mr. Christensen.

What made the staff at North think that the parking lot should be redone in the first place?

“Really it’s not the staff at North, it’s the district’s facilities department. When the project of the new track being built in [was proposed,] one of the other things they also had on the radar prior to that was somehow redoing that lot on the south side. I don’t know if you recall what that was like at the end of last year but… lots of potholes, lots of pieces [of rocks] there and it just— the asphalt was wearing and showing its age a lot. So, the district has some funds they earmarked for that and said well now is probably the time to do that when we already have construction there. And so part of that redo, if you’ve noticed, it will no longer be asphalt; it will be concrete. Longer lasting, right? Better product once we get it complete. That’s kinda the thought process. They had it on their radar and then when the other part of the project was gonna happen they thought ‘this is the time’ and get it all done.”

Do you think the students here would agree with that reasoning?

“I think anybody who drove in that lot, especially towards the end of last year, knew that it was definitely much closer to the end of its lifespan than the beginning of its life span. At some point we gotta redo that process.”

When was the parking lot originally supposed to be done?

“Beginning of school. It’s not done yet, is it though? It was supposed to start when it started and be done right around the beginning of school.”

Were there any setbacks during the construction process that you know of?

“Yes. Huge,” he emphasized. “In essence, for what happened is anytime you do a large flat surface you need to have somewhere for when it rains where that water goes because if it all goes to the city sewer right away it over fills that. So, in some areas you might see when they have more green space they have retention ponds, areas that will fill up with water when it rains and then they’ll kinda dry away. We actually don’t have a spot to put a retention spot. So, what they do in those situations is they have underground retentions.”

“End of June, beginning of July, they had built all that in, put all the stuff on top. Right after the Fourth of July, they came back and when it happened everything up here, the rocks [below], the retention center, and the rocks on top all sunk down a foot. Which means these things down there either collapsed or they pushed down into the ground. Either way, it doesn’t work. ‘Cause could you imagine if there was concrete on top of that? It would be all broken up.

So, that means that they basically have to tear that all up and start that process over again. Couple [that] with the fact that they have to figure out what went wrong to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

“Then of course you’re working with insurance that wants to see what it is. What will they pay? What will they not pay? Long story short, we sit here today with a project that was supposed to be done in the beginning of the school [year], but it is not done yet.”

When did the process of digging out the retention center end?

“A couple of weeks ago started the portion of stuff going back in. So, they’re in the process now of being rebuilt back in. They have dug it all out and done what they needed to do to make sure that doesn’t happen again. I mean we hope anyways–that’s the goal.”

Do you believe the parking lot will be done before winter really hits?

“It has to be. That’s my push with the school district, with the construction. I said we need to have that done.
I don’t get to control that, if you know what I mean. Some of it is weather related, some of it is how fast they can get their stuff done. But my message would be: we meet weekly, as far as a construction meeting. [I tell them] ‘I need this done, I need this done, I need this done.’ Not just to open up more spots but we gotta get students closer to the building and all that stuff.”

Would construction still continue once winter hits?

“Some of the construction out there will continue, but not on the parking lot. In essence, they’re gonna face a time where they’re gonna drop stop. That drop dead date they gotta stop because of weather. The question is gonna be, ‘are they gonna have enough done quickly enough that they can pour the concrete when they’re ready,’ and then it’s done, or their contingency plan is [to] get it to that point and instead of doing concrete which takes longer, [they’ll] pour it with asphalt knowing that next spring they’re gonna have to rip that all up and then put the concrete down. At the end of it, it doesn’t really matter to me. I just want it to get done.”

What’s your opinion on the current state of the south side parking lot?

“It’s a mess. Now, I am very happy they were at least able to get the south half done. That gives us something we can function with. You can imagine if we didn’t have that we’d be really hurt. So, we are able to function but obviously the original schedule was done before school for a reason, right? Because we needed it done. And of course here we sit in October and it is not done. My hope continues to be that they can make progress as quickly as they can and this thing gets done and out of here as soon as possible.”

And finally, do you have any comments you would like to add?

“Well, I just think a couple of things. One, I think it’s important for folks to understand that I think everyone is frustrated about it, right? Myself included. Every time I walk by there I look out and I’m like ‘this was supposed to be done at the end of August.’ So I can understand frustration about that. At the same time I would say what I have to tell myself, and what I would hope everybody else is, I know it’s not fun but please continue to have some patience. There is progress being made. We need to get it finished. It’s going to be great once it’s all done. It’s just a real pain in the butt right now and I think it’s more so because it’s a situation we didn’t plan on. We planned on it being completed, and unfortunately that setback, as we talked through, occurred and really threw things off.”

Even during these dark parking lot times, we’re getting more insight into what happened and what the future of the south side parking lot may hold. Whether concrete or asphalt, this parking lot will have to be done eventually. I believe that as a school, we can hold out a little bit longer.