Proposed expansion of snowmobile route along Greenway fails to gain approval
Several people have shared their thoughts including council members on the concept proposed by the Red River Snowmobile Club to expand the snowmobile trail on the Greenway
GRAND FORKS – New snowmobile trails will not be added along the Greenway in Grand Forks after a proposed expansion was not included in the city’s 2022/23 route presented by Deputy Chief of Police Bill Macki.
The decision became official on Monday evening, when the route was submitted to the City Council.
“Something has to be done,” Brian Chandler, the vice president of the Red River Snowmobile Club, said Tuesday morning. “Nothing was accomplished so we’re not only back to square one, but we lost a little bit of route that we did have.”
For years, 42nd Street has been the designated route for getting into the city from the south by snowmobile. That dates back to the days before development and is no longer considered safe. As a result, the new snowmobile route approved Monday night removes 42nd Street as a corridor for snowmobiles. The snowmobile club was in favor of that and wanted the Greenway as the new route.
The club suggested the expansion earlier this year, hoping to see an additional 7.2 miles of groomed snowmobile trail added from DeMers Avenue to 62nd Avenue South. At present, snowmobile access on the Greenway is limited to an area of less than 2 miles, from Riverside Dam to DeMers.
The idea, however, was met with backlash from some people who use the Greenway and live along it. Among the top concerns were the potential impacts on wildlife, noise, safety of other Greenway users and that the plan is moving too quickly.
“I’m concerned about placing the safety of out-of-town snowmobilers, because that’s who would be using this north-south route, over the Grand Forks citizens who currently use the Greenway,” council member Bret Weber said during a discussion about the proposal during a Nov. 28 Committee of the Whole meeting.
While Chandler said snowmobiles are widely accepted in other towns across the region – Crookston and Bemidji are good examples, he said – he believes snowmobiles just haven’t been widely accepted here.
“Grand Forks, North Dakota, has just never ever given snowmobiles a chance,” he said. “I don’t think we should be on the streets of Grand Forks. I never have thought that, but I think we should have a safe trail that gets you into the city without going on the streets.”
The snowmobile club would have paid for maintaining the snowmobile trail, which would have had a speed limit of 15 mph. Chandler said work was done over the summer to put up signs along the proposed trail.
Chandler said a considerable amount of work was put into prepping the proposed trail over the summer with many volunteers donating time.
“I worked on it for four months,” he said. “I can’t tell you the miles and the money that I put into it.”
At both council meetings, Chandler said, no one from the club was asked to speak about the club’s proposal.
A recent survey sent out by Kim Greendahl, the city’s Greenway specialist, compiled people’s input on the idea, with more than 200 people sharing their thoughts. Greendahl said she wasn’t surprised by the number of responses.
“I guess it didn't surprise me just because I know how special the Greenway is to people,” Greendahl said. “When we give them an opportunity to express themselves, usually they'll take you up on it.”
Greendahl mailed more than 2,200 postcards to people who live near the Greenway to inform them about the snowmobile trail proposal and survey. Anyone could take the survey, however.
Other survey questions inquired about favored winter activities on the Greenway, along with the time of day they like to visit there.
Despite a large number of survey responses being against the trail expansion, there were responses that voiced support for the idea.
“I 100% support a snowmobile trail on the Greenway,” one survey respondent wrote. “My house is right against the dike in Riverside Park. There isn’t a difference in noise from a sled on the river vs. on the Greenway, so don’t let people try (to) tell you otherwise. It’s safer to keep people off the river as well.”
During the Dec. 5 City Council meeting – when the 2022-2023 route was presented – council members discussed the possibility of re-evaluating the portion of city code that declares the chief of police is the one who annually determines designated snowmobile routes within city limits.
“Do we want the chief of police setting the route?” council member Danny Weigel asked during the meeting. “To me, that’s almost a policy decision, which should fall on all of us.”