County seeks help from state for trail cleanup

Rhonda Silence

When it came time for the agenda item “Commissioner Concerns” at the Tuesday, January 5, 2016 county board meeting, West End Commissioner Ginny Storlie said she had a concern about the condition of area snowmobile and ski trails and its potential impact on the county’s economy.

Storlie said she had been contacted by Sharon Platzer of the Lutsen Trailbreakers Snowmobile Club who described the situation. Because of the unusual winter weather, snow- and ice-laden trees and brush were blocking area trails, not just in Lutsen, but all over the county.

Workers from snowmobile and ski clubs were working hard to get trails open, but finances are being strained by the unexpected expense of cleanup, said Storlie.

“This affects tourism in our county,” said Storlie. “This affects cross country skiing, dog sledding and snowmobiling.”

County Board Chair Heidi Doo-Kirk agreed the situation was dire. She said the Cook County snowmobile club and groups like the Banadad Trail Association need help with trail clearing.

Commissioner Frank Moe, a musher who will be racing his sled dogs on Gunflint Trail area trails this weekend in the Gunflint Mail Run, said everyone who is involved in winter sports has been working to get the trails open. Moe suggested contacting Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Parks & Trails Supervisor Joe Russell, who may know if funding is available for emergency trail maintenance.

Commissioners agreed to reach out to the DNR, as well as state legislators, to see if any funding is available to help those involved in the cleanup. Commissioner Garry Gamble said the legislature is sometimes more receptive to providing funding for short-term solutions than long-term commitments.

Gamble noted the idling of Minnesota Power’s Taconite Harbor Energy Center and its effect on the countywide economy and the county’s reliance on tourism. “We can’t lose money on all fronts,” said Gamble.

Doo-Kirk asked County Administrator Jeff Cadwell if he could follow up on the discussion. Cadwell agreed and said, “Hopefully I will have more information next week.”

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2016-01-09 digital edition

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