The Park Rapids City Council approved two resolutions Tuesday supporting a reroute of a grant-in-aid snowmobile trail that crosses U.S. Hwy. 71 near the roundabout.
City Planner Andrew Mack explained that the trail previously crossed the highway at the Industrial Park Road / Crocus Hill St. intersection, but this crossing was eliminated when the roundabout was built this year. The city worked with the Forest Riders Snowmobile Club to plan a crossing farther north at 11th St., but the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) denied the proposal.
“The reasons for the denial had to do with hydrology and safety concerns in that location,” said Mack. “So, staff and the city engineer went back to work with the snowmobile club and identified a suitable alternative location,” which MnDOT approved.
The newly proposed trail route crosses Hwy. 71 about 1,800 feet south of the roundabout, where the trail kiosk has been installed. The trail continues west along an unimproved street right of way, then turns north along Commerce Ave. to cross Industrial Park Rd. before cutting west to connect with the existing trail along Fair Ave.
East of the highway, the trail will have a new spur crossing Crocus Hill St. and following Edmond Dr. north to the Chamber of Commerce, providing access to the public facilities at the rest area.
The first resolution approved a limited use permit (LUP) agreement with MnDOT for the new trail route. Moved by council member Erika Randall, it passed without dissent.
The second resolution approved a license agreement with the club. The Forest Riders are to pay for improvements and maintenance of the crossing, including a culvert, ditch work and signage to make the approach safer.
Mack said the agreement was prepared by the city attorney and requires the club to carry liability insurance on the 110-foot crossing.
Because of the lateness of the season, Richard Ohm said the club will work with the city engineer and MnDOT to put in the culvert next year. Meantime, a snow bridge will be used to raise the trail’s approach to the highway as it crosses the ditch.
“We’d like to see that as snowmobiles come up to the road, they’re level with the cars; cars can see the snowmobiles, and snowmobiles can see the cars,” said Ohm. “Right now, when it’s real steep, it’s hard for everybody.”
Ohm said he believes MnDOT will put up snowmobile crossing signs per the LUP. He noted that existing signs were taken down before the roundabout was built.
Asked whether he is concerned about traffic accelerating to 60 mph as it moves south out of the roundabout, Ohm said snowmobile trails cross 60 mph highways “all the time” in rural areas, “so it’s not any different that way, and the sight lines are good … especially once we bring the snowmobiles level with the road. That’s really important. You can’t have snowmobiles coming up out of the ditch, onto the road. That’s where you’d have issues.”
Mack said city staff would call MnDOT right away to make sure snowmobile crossing signs are put up in time for this winter’s snowmobiling season.
Moved by council member Tom Conway, the second resolution also passed without dissent.