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BRAINERD CITY COUNCIL: Summer heat doesn’t deter talk of snow

Christmas in July, or at least snow, was on the minds of those before the Brainerd Council Tuesday. 

The council voted to support a Brainerd Snodeos Snowmobile Club request regarding a through-city snowmobile trail, which comes through Kiwanis Park, crosses the College Drive bridge and continues west on the south side of Central Lakes College to connect with the Baxter Snowmobile Club’s trail.

With the College Drive road project, the snowmobile club is losing its bridge crossing over the Mississippi River.

Mark Kavanaugh, secretary/treasurer of Snodeos Snowmobile Club and president of Crow Wing County Snowmobile Trail Association, told the council the alternative route the city suggested to cross at Laurel Street is unacceptable because of safety and grooming concerns.

Kavanaugh said the club was seeking direction from the city on the through-town snowmobile trail and was coming forward with a suggestion for an additional bridge deck on the south side of the College Drive bridge.

Without a crossing, Kavanaugh said there will be no way for snowmobiles to access trails outside the city and it would send the wrong message that Brainerd doesn’t want snowmobiles here.

Kavanaugh said an extension on the bridge to carry strictly the snowmobiles in winter could be used for fishing and walking during the summer and would bring together the new nature trail, Mississippi highlands trail, behind Central Lakes College, which is now a snowmobile trail.

Kavanaugh described it as an aggressive plan with the anticipated $1.6 million coming from grant money.

Mary Koep, council president, said funding should be obtained first and she wanted clarification that the city would not be responsible for any match. She said the match would have to come from the clubs. Kavanaugh said he realized the city didn’t have the funding.

An obvious possible source for funding is the Legacy Act.

City planner Mark Ostgarden noted the city has multiple trail projects in the works, including the Cuyuna Lakes Trail connection to Brainerd and the Mississippi River improvements project and other local park improvement projects such as Trailside Park. So as much as the city wants to support the snowmobile crossing, Ostgarden said a determination needs to be made regarding what the priorities are as not everything may be funded. And some of the projects, Ostgarden said, are ones the city has been working on for a number of years.

Council member Kelly Bevans moved to support the Brainerd Snodeos efforts for the trail through the city with Ostgarden as liaison to the group. Bevans said he wasn’t addressing the money now. Bevans said the College Drive project changed the trail crossing and he was trying to support a group of people regarding a long-standing asset to the community. Bevans noted the economic benefit across a variety of businesses from the snowmobile trail asset.

“This is bigger than just crossing the Mississippi River and it has been for decades,” Bevans said.

Council member Kevin Goedker said it’s important to send a clear message the city wants to work with the group to maintain what has always been available. Cumberland agreed, noting she supported the effort if the group could get the funding and not jeopardize the city’s other projects.

Koep said she couldn’t support it unless she heard an amendment that the city was in no way committed to any match. Koep said she could see this coming back at some point in the future with the grant available and the clubs not able to make a full match.

“We don’t have the money and we don’t need to tax the richest Minnesotans to get more money” for more local government aid, Koep said.

The motion was approved with Koep opposed.