After reconsidering plans to discontinue cross-country ski trail grooming, the Crow Wing County Board Tuesday, Sept. 22, moved forward with passing off that job to the Brainerd Nordic Ski Club beginning this winter.
As part of approving a non-motorized trail permit for the club, commissioners agreed to pass along $4,100 in state grant-in-aid trail funds the county receives for the Larson Lake Trail along with another $5,000 to cover the cost of grooming the Wolf Lake Trail. The Wolf Lake Trail is not part of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources grant program, and the state agency is not currently considering funding new trails.
Another $850 was tacked onto the funding at the request of Bill Meyer, a representative of the club who spoke with the board via Microsoft Teams video conferencing during the meeting. Meyer said those additional dollars mirrored what the county spent on plowing the parking lots at the trailheads during the 2019-20 season.
Meyer told the board while the club’s preference would be for county workers to continue grooming the trails and plowing the parking lots — which Land Services Gary Griffin recently said had occurred for decades — the next best option would be for the county to cover the estimated cost to the club for completing the grooming and plowing on its own. That estimate was $9,180.
While grant-in-aid trail funding covers some of the costs, Meyer said they’ve learned it covers about two-thirds of what it runs to groom the trails all winter. The club already grooms trails in a number of other locations, including the French Rapids Trail and those within the Northland Arboretum. The club puts on a number of fundraisers to cover the difference.
Cross-country ski enthusiasts in the county learned in January the county planned to stop grooming the Larson and the Wolf Lake trails following equipment failure. Grooming resumed after county officials said they heard from representatives of area cross-country skiing clubs who wanted to keep using those trails for the remainder of the season. A temporary fix to the groomer gave it enough life to finish out the skiing season, but that equipment was sold this summer.
In August, Commissioner Doug Houge brought the topic to the county board again at the request of ski clubs. Both trails are located in District 5, which Houge represents.
The Larson Lake Trail south of Deerwood is 7.2 miles long and features rolling hills and a mix of oak forests, and red and white pines. The Wolf Lake Trail east of Brainerd is 5.6 miles long and features varying terrain, from level to hilly, and a mix of hardwoods and mature pines.
In other business, the board:
Agreed to fund improvements at Paul M. Thiede Fire Tower Park, including a fire prevention history display, an asphalt approach to the picnic shelter, trail improvements, and benches and a picnic table at the top of the hill. The original proposal included an additional picnic shelter at the top, but commissioners opted to redirect those funds toward trail improvements. Griffin said work would include preventing erosion of the granite trails. The total amount approved was $168,500, which comes from proceeds the county earns by the sale of tax-forfeited properties and timber.
Agreed to fund the purchase of a side-by-side all-terrain vehicle for land services, which will be used by environmental services staff while working in the field. The total amount approved was $33,000, which comes from proceeds the county earns by the sale of tax-forfeited properties and timber. The vehicle was originally pitched as part of a proposal to continue ski trail grooming, but Griffin said the department had many uses for the vehicle, including giving rides to prospective timber buyers on county forestland.
Approved purchase requests to be submitted for reimbursement through funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Among the most costly were mass vaccination equipment and supplies, $111,285.28; an updated firewall with more processing capacity to handle telework, $108,032; and upgrades to wireless access points countywide, $63,273.46.
Passed a resolution supporting a joint application with the city of Crosby to seek state-sponsored Transportation Economic Development funds to improve the intersection of Highway 210 and County Highway 31 with a roundabout.
Agreed to a letter of support from the board as part of a pitch to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to designate a water trail on Mille Lacs Lake for paddlers.
Approved updates to the county’s fleet vehicle policy that sought to improve inefficiencies in the incident reporting process to the county’s insurance company.
Approved the hiring of the following people: Clayton Caird, 911 communications officer, sheriff’s office; Alex Vukelich, part-time deputy, sheriff’s office; Erik Sarkela, corrections officer, sheriff’s office; John Hoefler, highway maintenance specialist, highway department; and Troy Haukos, highway maintenance specialist.
Accepted the departures of the following employees: Kris Karr, highway maintenance specialist; Roberta Vickerman, assessment specialist, land services; and Jackie Dahl, customer service specialist, land services. The board also approved replacement staffing for a property assessor supervisor, which was reclassified from an assessing services manager and is at a lower grade on the county’s pay scale.