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Meeting Minutes

Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.

May 15, 2019 7:40 PM

Meeting called to order by Sam Behrends, vice president, at 6:40 p.m. at the warming house of the Blue Hills Trail

Attendance

Officers: Sam Behrends, Tom Paulsen

Members: Dan Bale, Mike Cragg, Paul Johnston, John Kann, Lori Larsen, Jan Paulsen, John Ziemer

Non-members:

Minutes

Motion by Mike Cragg, second by John Ziemer, to dispense with reading of the prior minutes of May 2018 and to accept the May 2018 minutes without changes. Unanimously carried.

Treasurer's Report

The fiscal year runs September 1 to August 31 inclusive. An interim budget report was presented by Tom Paulsen. Revenue ($27,183.18) exceeded expenses ($22,516.21) by $4666.97. Overall expenses were above budget due to equipment repairs (Camoplast tracks on the Gator), trail and bridge repairs (backhoe work and replacement of 3 culverts), and all new signage on the East Side trails; revenue was significantly above budget thanks to steady support from business/individual donations, memberships, & banquet fundraising; trailhead receipts were below budget due to the weird weather patterns. Our bottom line shows a positive balance on April 1 (available cash) of $37,729.63. Budget for 2019-20 was presented. Discussion was held. Motion was made by John Ziemer to approve the Treasurer's report as presented, and seconded by Mike Cragg. Unanimously carried.

Objectives

  1. Election of officers
  2. Old Business
  3. Membership Fees
  4. New Business
  5. Designate committee members for the upcoming year

Election of Officers

In his absence, we thanked Ron Jasperson for serving as president the past year 3 years, and as vice president for 3 years before that. Sam Behrends has completed 1 year as vice president, and is willing to serve as president this next year. Tom Paulsen agreed to serve another one-year term as secretary/treasurer. Jan Paulsen nominated Sam Behrends for president and Tom Paulsen for secretary/treasurer, seconded by Lori Larsen, and passed unanimously. Sam asked for nominations for vice president – noting that Steve Schleppegrell is willing to serve as VP. Mike Cragg nominated Steve Schleppegrell for vice president, seconded by John Ziemer, and passed unanimously.

Old Business:

Fall banquet: this was a fun evening – held early November at Lehman's Supper Club in Rice Lake. Attendance was excellent (83), the food was delicious, attendees enjoyed Richard Lett’s presentation of his time serving as security for the British Royal Family; and sailing solo across the Atlantic. Thanks to Nels Curnow and Patty McGown for decorating the banquet site, and Patty serving as emcee. The banquet was more financially successful than past years (raising $3710 from sales of silent auction items) – a result of the donation of more big dollar items, good attendance, and eager bidding.

Fundraising: fundraising was again very successful this past year. Donations from businesses ($5895) and individuals ($6440) were either at or above budget. Trailhead donations ($1760) were below budget – a reflection of the poor start to the winter, and weather systems that frequently disrupted weekend grooming and skiing. Memberships ($5900) decreased by four to 91 households but the dollar amount increased because of the 2018-19 increase in annual dues. Sales of raffle tickets ($960) were steady. The revenue from silent auction items at the fundraising banquet ($3710) increased significantly – about $1200 above expectations. Interest income from our on-line savings added $250. It should be noted that in December 2018 we moved our savings account to a different online bank (First Internet Bank of Indiana) to take advantage of a much better interest rate.

Winter Fun Day: no attempt at hosting a race this past year, the costs to host a small race remain prohibitive. A "Fun Day on the Trails" didn’t materialize this past winter because of the uncooperative weather.

Equipment:

  • Our biggest expense(s) this past year was associated with the Gator, primarily related to the Camoplast tracks on the Gator. We replaced the oxygen sensor April 2018; in the summer  we replaced all of the small bogie wheels on the Camoplast tracks due to failing bearings; expensive preventive maintenance in October included replacement of all the bearings on the big bogie wheels, further maintenance of the tracks, and scheduled maintenance on the Gator. In February 2019 the left rear hub spindle broke and was repaired by us in the field – requiring replacement of the broken hub spindle, drive sprocket, and stabilizer rod. The Gator overheated while grooming in March, we limped it back to the trailhead, diagnosed and replaced a broken alternator belt.
  • Bearcat snowmobile: We modified the exhaust, replaced broken Hyfax slides, replaced the solenoid that operates the winch, replaced drive belt, added ice scratchers, replaced the damaged ski runners (carbides).
  • April 2018 we arranged to fabricate a scraper for the rear of Yellowstone roller, hoping this would help remove accumulating sticky snow. It seems helpful, but using the rollers in sticky conditions is never a good option.
  • Throughout the year, a lot of the equipment repair and preventive maintenance was done on site using volunteer labor – resulting in big savings. During the grooming season, monthly periodic service of the Gator was handled on site in our heated storage shed by volunteers and/or Ron Beebe. Ron Beebe’s mechanical expertise has been very helpful.
  • The Bearcat’s fuel gauge is malfunctioning, and always reads full. It could be the result of the gas float getting stuck. This is an issue that might be corrected by inspecting & repairing the float when the gas tank is near empty. Paul Johnston suggested we consider buying an old fashioned gas cap with an attached float. Tom will try to locate one that fits.
  • The Bearcat exhaust was modified last April to direct the hot gases to the side rather than straight down – thus no more problems with melting the snow and trail surface.
  • Sam Behrends uses our small G2 (G2-4) and tracksetter for grooming a trail for the Bruce High School team. Various parts were replaced 2017. If we run into a situation where we need a backup, Sam will return the G2-4 to our trailhead.
  • Bob Wieckowicz welded (fabricated) a brace in April 2019 to support the Gator rear hitch extension. This was necessary because the hitch was sagging due to metal fatigue adjacent to the hitch receiver. The new setup is solid.

Trail maintenance:

  • We were fortunate that heavy rain events mostly missed our area last summer. Fairly extensive dozing and backhoe work was performed summer 2019 – combining the efforts of DNR dozer operator Gary Sarauer and backhoe operator Scott Gudis. Refer to our trail maps to help understand the following: On the East Side, this included major work near the bridge between 25 & A2 on the Hemlock Canyon trail; east of A5 on the Roundabout trail; near #7 on the Core Loop; between 8-9 on the Core Loop; and creating the new trail segment that runs between C4-C5 on the Far East trail. On the West Side, dozing greatly improved the trail as it runs adjacent to a long beaver dam between I-H. Volunteers spread grass seed after the dozing was completed. Beavers were removed from several spots on the West Side – then in the fall Steve Porn and Tom Paulsen created log corduroy between I-H to help span a deep trench. In December, we hauled 2 sheets of plywood into place to help span a wet area below the tall beaver dam east of Letter F. We received 2+ days of free dozing; the backhoe work cost $635. The forestry department also billed us $590 for 3 culverts that were replaced.
  • The new Eastside trail from C4-C5 (part of the Far East Trail) received frequent skier traffic. Because of nasty erosion south of C3, the new trail segment C4-C5 was very welcome; we never groomed C3-C2 this past winter. Tom will ask Gary Sarauer to consider dozing repair south of C3; although it’s likely that area will be improved after the logging in that area is completed.
  • Since we’ve abandoned the S-curve southeast of A4, the two erosion prone bridges on that trail segment were removed by DNR dozer operator Gary Sarauer.
  • As you may recall, in 2017 Tom P and Jerry S scouted (flagged) new Eastside trails to provide a new Far East loop. In 2018, Tom walked those routes with Jeremy Koslowski (Forestry Department) and Gary Sarauer (DNR dozer operator) to finalize the anticipated routes and mark trees for removal. The plan is to doze the segment from C6-C7 this summer if the weather cooperates and Gary has time available. The segment from 18-C4 is within a timber sale that awaits cutting – it will be dozed after the logging is done – that trail holds great promise.
  • County Forestry Dept mowed the Westside and limited parts of the Eastside where trails were dry enough to withstand the weight of their tractor mower; softer Eastside trails were mowed using the Gator and our trail mower. The Gator with Camoplast tracks easily floated over soft/damp/muddy areas without leaving much of an imprint. The mowing crew of BHTA volunteer members saves about $1000 in contracted labor costs.
  • The Work day in early October was fairly well attended and focused on brushing the trail margins.
  • In October 2017 Tom P and Steve P created a PVC ford on the small creek on the Westside southeast of Letter F. Six 4" diameter heavy walled PVC pipes (10' in length) were cabled together to create a corduroy crossing that would permit water to flow through the pipes and snow to accumulate on top. The cost was about $100. It was washed 15 feet downstream last summer, and in the late fall Tom P & Steve P moved it back into place and secured it with cables. This seemed to work well this past winter – it’ll be interesting to evaluate that PVC corduroy crossing this summer after snow melt and summer rains.

Grooming: the first part of the winter – up until February 5th – delivered very little snow, 4 separate meltdown events, 5 separate rain events, with a Polar Vortex thrown in for variety. Despite all that, we found enough snow to groom 13 times and periodically enjoyed some pretty good skiing. Audie Flowage served as a beautiful alternative to trail skiing. Then on February 5th the Snowmaggedon hit. Tom recorded about 53" of snow between February 5th and March 9th. To say the least, our groomers were challenged. They groomed 18 times in February, and 10 more times in March. Often it meant long hours spent grooming, frequently in bitter cold temps. In all the deep snow, we lost track of the number of times the groomers needed to use their front-end winches (and multiple lengths of tow straps) to pull themselves out of trouble. During the peak of the snowfalls, we were forced to deal with a couple of major equipment problems with our Gator (broken hub spindle on the left rear Camopplast track; Gator overheating due to broken alternator belt). Taking the bull by the horns, we completed the repairs in the field ourselves – minimizing down time and keeping labor costs to a minimum.

Signage: the East Side map was totally reworked thanks to input from our membership, and with technical assistance from Kirk Paulsen (traffic engineer in Portland, OR). Our maps are now georeferenced, and available for free download on your smartphone using the Avenza Maps App. Thanks to several eager volunteers, the new signage (165 directional signs) was placed in September. Many visitors expressed pleasure with the new more logical maps.

Snowshoe trail: maintained and expanded by Dan Bjugstad and John Kann. Visitors clearly enjoy these snowshoe trails. Heavy snows in February made for great snowshoeing. Many thanks to Dan and John!

Storage: on site storage works well.

Warming house:

  • Northwest HVAC modified the warming house furnace pilot light in April 2018 to minimize the offensive gas odor. Apparently, the pilot had been set to burn too high when the furnace was installed a few years ago.
  • Since we don't need to insulate the warming house as tightly as a private residence, Lee Westlund (the warming house builder) recommended we not bother caulking the exterior of the warming house. Instead he recommends the use of sheep's wool (available on the internet from log house building suppliers) to plug any obvious gaps. The sheep's wool has good insulating properties, it wicks moisture, and it isn't itchy like its fiberglass alternative. We purchased the sheep's wool (wool ropes) to repair any insulation gaps, it's in a bin in the storage shed.
  • Tom keeps the mice under control using traps and/or bait.

Website:

  • Those in attendance agreed our website remains a highly useful portal in providing info for members and visitors; also we occasionally distribute messages using Facebook and Twitter. Hopefully our members can provide more numerous and frequent trail condition updates to skinnyski.com
  • We pay a yearly fee ($190) for use of the Adobe Muse website design software (previously this was donated by Kristine Paulsen); we also pay an annual fee ($50) for website hosting (we use Bluehost.com); and we pay an annual fee ($60) for website scanning & repair (security company called SiteLock). Ongoing thanks! to Kristine Paulsen for her savvy & artistic involvement with the website and it’s various complexities.

Ski clinic: no ski clinic this past December, the weather wasn't favorable.

Membership Dues:

Current annual dues are $50 for individuals, $75 for families. Dues were increased by $5/$10 in October 2018, and the number of memberships has remained stable at 90-95 member households each year. Tom P (treasurer) recommends the same annual dues for 2019-2020. Jan Paulsen moved to keep the dues the same, second by John Kann, passed unanimously.

Our current daily trailhead fee was increased one year ago from $5 to $10 (encouraging users to donate based on their level of enjoyment – suggesting a $5 daily donation per person as a minimum). Since we are a non-profit operating on County land, we cannot require a specific trailhead fee. And our longstanding philosophy encourages many diverse individuals to access the trail system and help fulfill our mission as a non-profit organization. Mike Cragg moved to keep the daily fees the same, second by John Ziemer, passed unanimously.

New Business:

Fall Banquet: we anticipate pretty much the same setup. We again will offer many silent auction items, and one or two major raffles. Patty McGown wants someone else to head the banquet committee & serve as emcee. As in the past several years, Ron Jasperson could help with setup the day of the banquet, but it would be nice to see someone else volunteer to help with the setup. Tom P will email the membership to seek 1-2 volunteers to help with the banquet. This year’s banquet will be held on Saturday, November 2, 2019 at Lehman's Supper Club Rice Lake. For this year's banquet, we have a commitment from Ernie St. Germaine (Birkie Founder) as our guest speaker. Tom P would like to again open the doors for the banquet at 5 p.m. instead of 5:30 – this allows an 30 extra minutes for socializing and bidding on silent auction items – this worked well in 2018.

Fundraising:

  • Bjorn Hanson (Rice Lake) would like to see the kids’ Nordic Rocks ski instruction program further developed in Bruce. Using loaned equipment from Ladysmith Schools, Sam reported a one week trial this winter was well accepted in the Bruce PE classes for the elementary grade students. The next step would be the purchase of 30 pairs of skis and poles at a cost of $1995. We discussed options for helping raise the $1995, and decided our organization might support some type of matching fundraising with the Blue Hills Trail Association (BHTA) donating $1000 to be matched. John Ziemer moved we solicit individual donations from our membership through an email message, seconded by Dan Bale. This was discussed, we felt this approach wouldn’t receive much support. The motion failed to pass with one voting in favor, 8 opposed. Then Mike Cragg moved that BHTA donate $1000 if the Bruce community and Rusk County were able to match this amount; seconded by Dan Bale, passed unanimously. Sam will contact Andy Albarado (Rusk County Economic Development Coordinator) to search for possible grant monies; Tom will contact Avery Newman (one of our members residing in Bruce) to ask for his help with Bruce community fundraising for this Nordic Rocks program.
  • Tom Paulsen will again spearhead the fall fundraising; Mike Cragg will provide some assistance representing the Rice Lake area. As in the past, fundraising appeals will focus on supportive individuals and businesses, and BHTA members.
  • Tom Paulsen requested help stuffing envelopes for the August mailing. Lori Larsen and Jan Paulsen volunteered.
  • The method for distributing banquet prizes (silent auction items & raffle winners) worked well this past year, and will be unchanged. Individuals will pick up their winning items, calculate the amount they owe, and pay Tom before leaving.

Winter Fun Day: Officers will try to coordinate 1-2 potluck ski events as a good way to socialize while attracting members/visitors - perhaps during a full moon if the weather cooperates. To enhance attendance, we’ll use a Saturday as the most likely day for the event. Members seem to prefer a potluck approach.

Equipment:

  • Sam is in the process of repairing our trail mower as a challenge in his high school power engine class. Oil has been reaching & contaminating the air filter. Sam discovered a blown cylinder head gasket as the cause; this is most likely due to overheating because of inadequate cleaning of the air handling unit and oil cooling fins. Once repaired, in the future we need to make sure the air handling unit is cleaned at least annually.
  • To protect the bearings in the bogie wheels of the Gator's Camoplast tracks, we plan on injecting gear oil through the rubber hubcaps – once prior to the summer mowing season, again in mid summer, and again prior to the winter grooming season.
  • Additionally, to help extend the life of the bogie wheels on the Gator, we’re going to purchase a portable pressure washer (low pressure) with plans to frequently clean the tracks after summer mowing and trail work. We’ll need to create some type of water storage at the trailhead. John Kann volunteered donation of a 50-gallon drum. Sam Behrends volunteered to place gutters on the metal storage shed, and set up a rainwater collection system.
  • A Tractor Central technician thinks the life expectancy of our 2014 Gator might be about 2000 hours before we should consider selling. It currently has about 1150 hours on it – an average of 230 hours per year. We will continue providing periodic maintenance per the manual (lubrication of drive line and Camoplast tracks at 50 hour intervals, oil changes at 100 hour intervals, check torque settings on Camoplast hub bolts at 50 hour intervals) and thorough annual maintenance to include replacement of the Camoplast hub bearings each year. We’ve been told that the most current version of Camoplast tracks is better designed, and more durable. We hope to get another 3-4 years use from the current set of tracks.
  • Since we bought our ABR roller in 2009, we’ve been dissatisfied when using it. It doesn’t seem to roll as well as the Yellowstone roller; and it requires two people to raise the rear compactor and comb off the snow. We could try redesigning/replacing the bearings. Discussion followed. Those present suggested the officers make an executive decision regarding selling the ABR roller, and buying a new Yellowstone roller that sells for $1850.

Trail maintenance:

  • The first bridge (small) between 1-26 needs to be re-supported on its southeast corner; a better solution would be replacement of this bridge with longer stringers. We'll try to put a crew together to replace this bridge this summer.
  • The sagging bridge east of #31 needs evaluation of its support. Last summer we removed part of the decking so large riprap could be added to fortify the west side of the creek. Later this year, Sam B will consider working on jacking up and improving the support for this bridge.
  • The area below the Westside beaver dam north of Letter F remains a grooming/skiing challenge. Options include a major reroute north around the lake impounded by the dam (this area was scouted by Tom P and Jerry S the summer of 2017) vs building a 72-foot long ‘floating’ boardwalk below the beaver dam in the wet area where the Jump River Electric (JRE) power line is running. JRE has agreed to flag the power line at that site if we make the request. The Forestry Department is willing to offer advice on locating/building a boardwalk. Tom’s estimate for the cost of a 12' wide boardwalk is $2000. Tom will again review the options with the Forestry Department during the annual joint planning meeting with Jeremy K in June.
  • Mowing plans – no change. Rusk County usually mows the Westside in July, and portions of the Eastside that can withstand the weight of their tractor. For the damp (soft) areas on the Eastside, we plan on again using volunteer labor operating the Gator pulling our trail mower. Tom P will check to see if our same mowing crew (volunteers) is available this summer.
  • One board needs replacement on the north side of the bridge at #2. The mowing crew should make note of this.
  • To reduce the likelihood of illicit truck traffic on the trails at points #1 and #2, we have an agreement with the Forestry Department to place metal gates at #1 and #2. The County Forestry department will provide the gates at #1 and #22 if we do the installation. Tom will discuss this further with the County Forestry department. Those in attendance agreed this would be a worthwhile project for our volunteers.
  • The persistently wet area just inside the gate at the warming house remains a problem. Hopefully this will be fixed as part of the Red Pine timber sale that is planned for summer logging.
  • We need to select a fall work day – our officers will do that later this summer.
  • When planning year round trail maintenance, Tom refers to ‘Trail Time Line’ outlined by Carolyn Chatterton (this file is named "Trail Time Line" and is available on Tom's computer).
  • To provide winter shade for certain portions of the trail system, tree planting has been suggested by a couple of our members. John (Rusk County Land Conservation Dept) suggests the use of spruce (more deer resistant) or red pine. The County Land Conservation Dept sends us an email in January with details regarding available trees – they are available in the early spring as 12"-18"-24" trees; perhaps the Forestry Dept would pick up the cost? After planting, they would need timely watering the first year; as well as grass control twice monthly. To date, only one of our members (Tyler G) has shown interest in this tree project. Those in attendance felt that tree planting is too much work for the anticipated payoff.
  • The bridge at #31 is located in a curve of the creek, and will always be susceptible to high water events. While exploring a new snowshoe trail with Dan and John, Tom discovered a very desirable new route from #23 to the top of the hill north of #31 that would allow a better creek crossing. Tom has looked at this with forester Jeremy Koslowski – and Tom needs to remind Jeremy to investigate this further – including potential DNR permits etc.
  • Four timber sales are active on the East Side, one on the West Side. There's no word yet regarding how soon any of these will be logged. Maps outlining these timber sales were shown to attendees.

Grooming:

  • Steve Gest and Ron Beebe remain interested in handling most of the wintertime grooming.
  • Our goal remains quality grooming of the entire trail system with major emphasis on the Eastside core loop, and with the Westside as next in priority – this reflects feedback as part of the April 2018 survey we distributed.
  • The amount of available classic track this past winter was often suboptimal. Hopefully this will be improved as a result of different grooming techniques that were discussed in a February 2019 meeting between our officers and groomers.
  • We will consider a fall meeting between officers and groomers if it seems necessary.
  • Having a reliable group of backup groomers is a good idea. If any of our members know of someone interested in grooming our trails, please contact one of our officers.

Signage:

  • Kirk P plans on revising the West Side map this summer – the goal is an appearance that resembles the East Side map. Once that’s done, Tom will arrange for printing of new intersection maps on the West Side – and will need volunteers to put up these new maps during our annual fall work day.
  • Annual replacement of missing or faded trail intersection maps needs to be done late fall or early winter. Each fall, Tom Paulsen contacts the Rusk County Extension Office to arrange printing of current maps. If help is needed, Tom will seek volunteers for map replacement this fall.

Snowshoe trail:

  • John Kann and Dan Bjugstad will continue to maintain and/or revise the snowshoe trail.
  • It was suggested that we spread the word that snowshoes are available for free use by contacting the Rusk County Visitors Center in Ladysmith - we can do this with signage at the trailhead and information on our website.
  • John K would like to place maps at various locations on the snowshoe trails – he’ll work with Tom P to coordinate this.
  • John K and Dan B are open to the idea of shared use of the snowshoe trails as fat bike trails – but will need to work cooperatively with fat bike enthusiasts on this – discussion followed. Tom P will contact Jeremy K (Forestry Department) to make sure this is permissible. John K will contact some of the local fat bike enthusiasts (individuals working on the Pipestone trails – Ryan Urban et al) to seek their input.

Storage: no changes anticipated, no discussion of this item.

Warming house:

  • There is a large outdated sign in the parking lot that is unnecessary, and falling apart. Tom will ask Jeremy Koslowski if the forestry department could remove the sign. We could salvage the lumber for use with bridge repairs.
  • Tom P will arrange for builder Eric Ringstad to evaluate the warming house interior/exterior for necessary repairs – and hire Eric to do any work that requires his skills.
  • Jan P is in charge of cleaning the women’s pit toilet; Tom will email the membership to find a volunteer to clean the men’s toilet. Sam B volunteered to repair the torn screens in the windows of the pit toilets.
  • We switched to Sheldon Coop (Heartland Coop) as the propane provider June 2010, they are delivering a good service. We fill the tank during the summer (July) when rates are the lowest. The 'new' propane tank near the storage shed will need to be filled once every few years when the ground is frozen or very dry; that tank most recently was filled summer 2018.

Annual Fall Work Day: to be selected later this summer.

Website: Tom will continue to manage the website. There are plans to switch to a different software for the website later this year. Watch for the revised website!

Ski Clinic: those in attendance appreciate the occasional ski clinics conducted by Steve and Jyneen Thatcher. Hopefully they can continue offering these teaching sessions.

Insurance: no changes anticipated, no discussion of this item.

Other:

  • John Kann suggested we distribute brochures to area silent sports organizations, ski shops, etc. Tom P will work up a design, and seek funding and printing from Rusk County Tourism; and will contact our membership for additional ideas regarding distribution of the brochures.
  • Sam B suggested we need a better presence on the skinnyski.com trail reports. This coming winter, Tom P will remind our members to submit occasional reports – and will post a sign in the warming house encouraging visitors to submit trail reports.
  • John Kann wondered about any possible plans for assisting an individual skier that is injured and unable to return to the trailhead. Officers will explore the possibility of placing small rescue kits at critical locations (perhaps at each of the kilometer markers on the core loop, etc.)

Committee Designations

To be carried over with additions as highlighted in bold

  • Banquet Committee: Ron Jasperson, Chairperson position is open
  • Fun Day / Full Moon Ski Committee: open
  • Equipment Committee: Sam Behrends (chair), Bob Wieckowicz
  • Fundraising: Jan Paulsen, Tom Paulsen, Mike Cragg
  • Grooming and Trail Maintenance Committee: Jerry Schneider, Steve Porn (chair)
  • Ski Clinic Committee: open
  • Snowshoe Trail: Dan Bjugstad, John Kann (chair)
  • Website: Tom Paulsen (chair)


Meeting Adjourned

Motion to adjourn by Mike Cragg, second by Dan Bale. Adjourned 8:30 p.m.

Minutes

Taken by Tom Paulsen, Secretary

A Listing of Active Committees

  • Banquet Committee
  • Fun Day / Full Moon Ski Committee
  • Equipment Committee
  • Fundraising Committee
  • Grooming and Trail Maintenance Committee
  • Ski Clinic
  • Snowshoe Trail
  • Website Committee