After the Floods, Fighting to Stay Open

MIFFLINVILLE -- Five years after flooding destroyed homes and businesses around our area, a golf course in Columbia County is fighting to stay open.

The owners of the place in Mifflinville blame the flooding and PennDOT for a slow recovery.

Thousands of people in northeastern and central Pennsylvania still feel the long-term effects of the flood of 2011. That includes the Crismans in Columbia County who continue to fight to keep a family business going.

People living near the Susquehanna River can't forget the floods of five Septembers ago. Gushing torrents ate away riverbanks, knocked over bridges, and flooded hundreds of streets.

Arnold's Golf Course in Mifflinville sits right by the river. It was underwater for days after the flood.

"Disaster everywhere, there's mud, nothing would dry out," said Brent Crisman, describing the place after the water receded.

Crisman manages the course. It's named after his grandfather, a one-armed golfer named Arnold.

39 years after it opened, the flood of 2011 almost closed it.

"We thought after we saw the damage initially, that we're done," Crisman recalled.

At the time of the flood, PennDOT built a causeway for construction equipment when it was repairing a bridge spanning Interstate 80.

The Crismans claim PennDOT's causeway channeled the river toward the golf course, making the damage from the floods more severe.

Attorney Chris Wilson of Harrisburg says the channeling left fairways covered with tons of silt and debris that would otherwise not have washed up.

A 35-page engineering report from a firm hired by the Crismans found, "PennDOT committed both engineering and construction management errors (with the causeway) that resulted in significant damage."

Wilson is a former PennDOT attorney and says the agency he used to work for refuses to help the Crismans.

"They've sized up the fact that these people don't have all the resources in the world, so they're in no hurry to settle it," said Wilson.

A PennDOT spokesman says the agency won't comment on a lawsuit.

"If they caused the damage, they should help fix it," said Crisman.

Brent Crisman says many of the holes at Arnold's remain damaged. On riverside fairways, grass doesn't grow well on the silt left by the flood, and sprinkler heads are buried three inches deep in the muck that couldn't be removed.

Golfer Jose Parilla is worried. Membership at Arnold's is half of what it was before the flood.

"It hasn't been the same since," said Parilla. "We don't have the greatest course in the world, but we do have the nicest people you can find. It's been bad; almost all of them have gone away someplace else."

It's hard for Brent Crisman to let go. The family dog that once roamed the course is buried near the first tee, and the family business bears the name of his grandfather.

"Is it worth the fight? I'm about to the point where with me, it's almost not."

The Crisman family claims it has lost more than $300,000 worth of business since the flooding in 2011 as many members and regular golfers have chosen to play at other courses.

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