Snowmobilers want county trail; supervisors table request
By MEGAN COOPER
Mt. Pleasant News
It’s almost time for snowmobilers to start thinking about those winter snowstorms. Some are gearing up and prepping their snowmobiles, but one question lingers on their minds – where do we ride safely?
Representatives from the local snowmobile club, the Ridge Blasters, gave a presentation before the board of supervisors during Thursday’s meeting, and asked the board to approve a snowmobile trail route. After considerable discussion, the board tabled the request pending further study.
“We want a trail that would essentially connect six towns,” said Jim Fitzgibbons, member of the Ridge Blasters. “We are looking for about 100 miles of trail and the good thing is we aren’t asking for money.”
Fitzgibbons went on to discuss what a snowmobile trail system would consist of. “Members of the club would take care of maintaining the trails, we would do the mowing, removal of obstacles and we would put the signs up,” he said. “The signs would only be up during the winter months when the trail is in use. They would then come down.”
Aaron Dorothy, another member of the Ridge Blasters, added to that, saying, “It would help to promote safety for riders if there were signs. Plus, there would be less chance of riders damaging property if they knew where to go.”
At a previous supervisors meeting, Jake Hotchkiss, Henry County engineer, said he was uncomfortable with this trail system because of the liability issue for the county. This was one stipulation that needed to be taken care of. Fitzgibbons had a solution.
“Talking with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), we were told we could obtain insurance. This insurance, along with insurance received by the Iowa State Snowmobiling Association, would cover any damages that might occur on the trails. This limits the liability and basically gives the county double coverage,” Fitzgibbons said. “There is no charge to public entities.”
The members of the club wanted to make sure the board understood why they were going to so much work to get this trail created. “By maintaining the trail and asking for this permission, it gives us good standing with the public. It keeps the riders in one area, instead of doing whatever they want wherever they want. It could bring other potential riders to town, which could have an economic impact. These people would buy gas and food in our towns,” Fitzgibbons said.
According to documents presented to the board, an approved trail system was already in place. During a Sept. 9, 1983, meeting it was approved. They added some trail during a Sept. 16, 1986, meeting and again during a Oct. 13, 1987, meeting. But, since those dates, not much has been done.
“It was also in the agreement that the trails had to be maintained, they weren’t. We’ve been taking signs down that haven’t been maintained,” Hotchkiss informed the board. “So with that in the agreement, they have gone away.”
The club members then gave the board some information about exactly why they want and what the club would be responsible for. “We also agreed to that while we were working on the trails we would wear green trail vests, that way we can be seen,” said Dorothy.
“I have a hard time giving the club the ability to do the maintenance on the trails,” said Hotchkiss. “Just because they are on right-of-ways, it doesn’t mean they have the ‘right-of-way,’ to do the work. If anything, it’s just going to cause more work for the maintenance department which then I would put it in order of priority, and right now, it’s not my top priority with everything that is going on.”
The board questioned them about the landowners on this trail. Fitzgibbons said, “landowners can get free insurance if they sign an agreement through the DNR. But, our trails shouldn’t be on the land so much. The point of the trail is to have an approved spot to ride. We would ride in the ditches and on dirt roads; this would help to give some power to the people. If they aren’t on the trail, then something can be done,” Fitzgibbons said.
Marc Lindeen, vice-chairman of the board, told Fitzgibbons and Dorothy that the board would have to look further into it. “We will have to have a discussion with our attorney, the sheriff, insurance and most importantly, with Jake (Hotchkiss). Another concern I have is what about a time constraint? I think we should have that in there somewhere too,” he said.
The board agreed to look into the matter regarding the trail system and said they would get back to Fitzgibbons and Dorothy at a later date.
Also during the meeting, department heads gave updates. John Pullis, Henry County Conservation, reminded the board of the Thursday Night Hike (which took place last night). He also mentioned the FEMA project is on hold due to the government shutdown. “We tried calling and we couldn’t get ahold of them,” Pullis said. Thus, final work of the footbridge cannot be completed at this time.
Rich McNamee, Henry County Sheriff, discussed the new Advanced Correctional Healthcare program that is in place at the department. “The staff has been trained and the program has started. The program saves trips to the doctor and emergency rooms. Basically what it does, is, it allows us to decide whether or not medical attention is necessary by calling the doctor who is on call. It also tells us what medications are necessary by calling the doctor. We can do the basic things like taking blood pressure and such, it just saves us time and money. The doctor comes every three weeks and we have a nurse who comes every week now,” McNamee said.
Rick Van Winkle, Henry County Veteran Affairs, informed the board of an upcoming event for veterans. “On Nov. 7, we are having a benefit for veterans at the armory. It will provide information they might need and answer questions they might have. We are also serving a pulled pork dinner for the veterans. It will begin at 4 p.m. and end around 8 p.m.,” said Van Winkle.
Hotchkiss asked the board to approve the hiring of Chase Klenk and Jerad Syfert as equipment operators one for the road department. The board approved the hiring and Klink will start on Oct. 7, and Seifert will start Oct. 21.
The board also approved a liquor license for the Countree Store in Winfield during the meeting. This license will allow the store to sell beer and wine.
The board meets again on Tuesday, Oct. 8, at 9 a.m.