Blue Hills Trail CONDITIONS
Good fall color. Good hiking and biking throughout the trail system. A small segment of the East Side trails still needs mowing (look at the mowing report below). As of September 1st, THE ENTIRE TRAIL SYSTEM has been cleared of downed trees resulting from the devastating December 2022 ice storm. Click here for maps showing the open trails. Trails involved in logging this past year have a dirt surface rather than grass (see logging notes under 'Important Updates').
Insect activity is low.
1-Logging on the West Side between intersections Y & Z is done for now.
2-Autumn 2022, loggers cut a large timber sale on the East Side. It's probably wise to avoid hiking those trails in all but very dry weather. Click here for a map showing the involved trails.
April 30: damp leaf top dusting
grooming & MOWING
Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.
May 15, 2023 6:00 PM
May 15, 2023
Meeting called to order
by John Waldron, vice president, at 6:05 p.m. at the warming house of the Blue Hills Trail
Officers: Tom Paulsen, Geary Searfoss, John Waldron
Members: Jan Paulsen
Motion by Tom Paulsen, second by Jan Paulsen, to dispense with reading of the prior minutes of May 2022 and to accept the May 2022 minutes without changes. Unanimously carried.
The fiscal year runs September 1 to August 31 inclusive. An interim budget report was presented by Tom Paulsen. Revenue ($34925.41) exceeded expenses ($32026.64) by $2898.77.
Overall expenses were above budget. Of note:
- $7409 for rental/operation of heavy equipment (backhoe and skid steer) to clear ice storm damage in December
- $6958 for snow equipment maintenance – including about $4600 for the Honda Pioneer (rewiring the accessory items Spring 2022, sub transmission repair, replace the metal winch cable with a synthetic cable, replace the broken fan blade, purchase new rubber tracks for the rear and replace the left rear rubber track); about $660 for issues related to Arctic Cat snowmobile overheating; and $550 to replace the rear comb on the ABR trail compactor grooming implement.
- $467 for storage upgrades which included solar panels for charging batteries in the storage buildings, and one extra lock and several keys for the two shipping containers
- $405 for trail mower maintenance including replacement of its wheel bearings
- $1206 for trail work including a $318 culvert for the new trail between Y and Z, and $825 for graveling the trail next to the warming house
- $629 charge for propane which was double the cost of previous years
Overall revenue was above budget. Of note:
- Record setting donations from businesses and individuals
- The number of annual memberships decreased from our previous high of 133 to a total of 115, but the revenue from memberships actually increased by $900 because the membership fees had increased
- Good (typical) results combining the November revenue from our online ‘banquet’ auction, our in-person banquet auction, and the sale of raffle tickets
- Trailhead receipts of $2699 were the lowest in 5 years – probably due to the disruption caused by the December 2022 ice storm combined with excellent snow conditions at ‘competing’ trail systems throughout upper Wisconsin and Minnesota
Our bottom line shows a positive balance on April 1 (available cash) of $38980.80. Budget for 2023-24 was presented. The budget was then modified to more accurately reflect the tendency toward increased donations from businesses and individuals, and the tendency toward higher equipment costs. Discussion was held. Motion was made by Jan Paulsen to approve the Treasurer's report as presented, and seconded by Geary Searfoss. Unanimously carried.
- Election of officers
- Old Business
- Membership Fees
- New Business
- Designate committee members for the upcoming year
Election of Officers
Sam Behrends has completed 3 years as president, and was vice president for several years prior to that. Sam is moving out of the area, his service to the Blue Hills Trail Association was outstanding. We wish Sam well.
John Waldron has completed 3 years as vice president, and is willing to serve as president this next year. Geary Searfoss has volunteered to serve as vice president this next year. Tom Paulsen agrees to serve another one-year term as secretary/treasurer. Brief discussion of the need to encourage ‘young’ members to become more active in the workings of the association. Tom Paulsen nominated John Waldron for president, Geary Searfoss for vice president, and Tom Paulsen for secretary/treasurer, seconded by Jan Paulsen, and passed unanimously.
Fall banquet: with the Coronavirus pandemic having diminished, the annual fall fundraising banquet was held November 5th at Lehman’s Supper Club in Rice Lake. This was combined with an online auction during the week leading up to the banquet. Online auction items (68) were distributed the afternoon of the banquet just before the doors opened. A select number of auction items (22) were available for banquet attendees. This combination worked well, it allowed more bidders to participate, and avoided the hassle of distributing a large number of items at the conclusion of the banquet when attendees are ready to depart.
Fundraising: fundraising was again very successful this past year. Donations from businesses ($7974) and individuals ($8133) were above budget. Trailhead donations ($2699) were decreased – probably due to the after effects of the December ice storm as well as good snow conditions at competing ski trails. Membership revenue ($9659) increased but the actual number of memberships decreased by 13% (dropping from 133 to 115). Sales of raffle tickets ($1280) were good. The revenue from the silent auction items ($3047) was good. Interest income increased significantly to $556 (current interest rates are good).
Winter Fun Day: due to the December ice storm, and lingering concerns regarding the COVID pandemic, there were no attempted group gatherings.
- April 2022 annual service of the Honda Pioneer UTV was performed at Northwest Honda in Rice Lake. This included rewiring of the dual battery setup to resolve issues with the aftermarket electrical items temporarily cutting out while grooming. A coolant leak also was addressed.
- August 2022 the Honda Pioneer developed problems while operating in low range. Zachos Sport Center (Chippewa Falls) replaced the sub transmission under our extended warranty. It returned to the trailhead in September.
- In late September, the Honda Pioneer transmission locked up – stuck in Park while mowing on the Hairpin Trail on the East Side of the trail system. With great difficulty – with the transmission stuck in Park – we skidded it onto our tilt bed snowmobile trailer and took it to Zachos Sport Center. Zachos disassembled the sub transmission, and found the shift shaft bound on the shift drum. They replaced the shift shaft, then reassembled and installed the sub transmission. This was done at ‘no charge’ – we certainly wondered if the initial repair of the sub transmission a couple weeks earlier contributed to this episode of the transmission freezing up.
- With the transmission issues raising our concerns, we are extra vigilant to always operate the Honda Pioneer in low range when operating on uneven terrain, or whenever towing. Rarely do we operate in high range. The transmission seemed to work OK throughout the winter.
- The Pioneer worked well during winter grooming most of the winter. The December ice storm created highly challenging conditions. After heavy equipment was used to clear tree debris from half the East Side and Excelsior Road on the West Side, the Honda worked hard while first pulling the ABR trail compactor on multiple passes to start smoothing the trails. Then the Arctic Cat Bearcat joined the grooming as nicer conditions developed.
- In January, the Honda Pioneer cooling fan broke during routine grooming. It needed replacement at Airtec Sports in Rice Lake. The fan has four blades, one had broken off and the fan was terribly out of balance.
- Toward the end of the grooming season, the rear tracks (Mattracks) started failing – rubber lugs broke off and caused the left rear track to start jumping and missing on the drive sprocket. As a result, we contacted Mattracks and bought replacement rear tracks at a discounted price. Two days after the replacement tracks arrived, we were forced to replace the left rear rubber track. The replacement rubber track for the right rear Mattrack is in storage in Tom’s garage. We’ll keep a close eye on the right rear track and replace it when more of the rubber lugs break off and interfere with the track engaging the drive sprocket. The rubber track that was removed is awaiting return shipping to Mattracks so they can inspect it. It’s our assumption that the rubber lugs were damaged as a result of the incredibly hard work required to groom the rough trail surfaces after the heavy equipment cleared tree debris.
- Our 2017 Bearcat snowmobile again suffered from overheating issues – similar to the previous winter. In January, it was evaluated by Days Power Sports (Arctic Cat Dealer in Bloomer) and found to be operating normally - they couldn’t find an explanation, but they also couldn’t reproduce the problem. No explanation for the overheating was found. However, it continued to periodically overheat when pulling a load (the Tidd Tech grooming implement). As the Bearcat overheated, the fan would operate, but then stop prematurely. Eventually, we discovered the cause: the fuse for the fan is a circuit breaker fuse. After we temporarily wired the fan directly to the battery (and bypassed the fuse), the Bearcat did not overheat. We then replaced the fan fuse with a new OEM replacement fuse, and the overheating issues were absent. The original fuse was corroded when pulled apart and examined by Tom. Perhaps this corrosion is related to the snowmobile sitting inside the humid shipping container during its summer storage??? We’re going to try something different for summer storage this year – storing the Bearcat in the blue shipping container and adding large vents to the blue shipping container with the goal of reducing the trapped moisture.
- Our new Yellowstone roller performed well. The old Yellowstone roller continues to work well. However, sometimes the older roller tends to gum up with sticky snow. Perhaps it’s related to the height of the hitch on the snowmobile. In the future, we might try modifying the height of the hitch setup on the snowmobile.
- The G2s worked well. The poly inserts on the Big G2 (G2-7) that are part of the snow transfer blades needed replacement which was done in March 2023.
- The ABR trail compactor needed replacement of the rear yellow comb. Parts were purchased through ABR, and replaced by Ron Beebe and Tom Paulsen in March 2023.
- Throughout the year, a lot of the equipment repair & preventive maintenance was done on site using volunteer labor – big savings. During the grooming season, periodic service of the Honda Pioneer was handled on site in our heated storage shed by Tom Paulsen, Ron Beebe, and Ed Gauthier.
- Ron Beebe’s mechanical expertise is extremely helpful.
- Sam Behrends has used our small Tidd Tech G2 (G2-4) and track setter for grooming a trail for the Bruce High School team. Various parts were replaced 2017. That implement was recently moved to John Waldron’s property. If we run into a situation where we need a backup, the G2-4 can be returned to our trailhead.
- Last summer, we again used our portable pressure washer (low pressure) and cleaned the tracks when needed. We are using a 50-gallon drum (blue plastic) to store water outside the storage shed. Members of the mowing crew bring 10+ gallons of water for each mowing operation – the extra water is added to the tank. Bleach is added to the tank to suppress algae etc. Batteries for the pressure washer are either recharged in the shed, or by Tom charging them at home.
- For the fourth year in a row, we were fortunate that heavy rain and wind events mostly missed the trail system last summer.
- On the East Side, C6-C7 on the Far East Trail was dozed and seeded summer 2019 and has good grass cover, and provides very good skiing. The future segment from 18-C4 is within a large timber sale that was logged in late 2022 – 18-C4 will be dozed after the loggers are done working in that area. Once that same timber sale is completed, the eroded segment of C3-C2 will need to be repaired.
- Because of erosion problems south of C3, we haven’t groomed C3-C2 the past several winters. The Eastside trail that runs from C3-C4-C5-C6-C7-C1 (the Far East Trail) receives frequent skier traffic.
- Erosion blankets were placed in two locations on the East Side summer 2019: just north of #4, and between #6-#7. Those blankets have helped control erosion. It’ll be interesting to further assess the results this summer.
- On the East Side, there was no significant illicit motorized traffic this past year.
- On the East Side, the small culvert several hundred meters north of Letter L was plugged and washed-out summer 2021. We scavenged an old culvert that had been stored by the pit toilets – dragged that culvert to the parking lot, and Scott Gudis used that culvert to repair the damaged, washed out culvert. The Forestry Department paid for Scott’s time. That culvert is working well.
- On the West Side, the new trail from Y to Z was dozed by Bob Hauser (DNR forester) and developed in late summer 2022. This included one culvert on the new trail (paid for by BHTA), and two culverts on the Lollipop Loop (paid for by the Forestry Department). The Forestry department spread grass seed. Very nice results.
- Rusk County Forestry Dept didn’t mow any of the trails last summer. Their usual trail mower equipment wasn’t available through the county highway department, and the purchase of their anticipated new mower was denied at the last minute. As a result, BHTA mowed the entire trail system, with the last of the mowing completed in the fall.
- Usually the Forestry Department mows the Westside and limited parts of the Eastside where trails were dry enough to withstand the weight of their mowing eqjuipment; softer Eastside trails are mowed using the Pioneer and our trail mower.
- The new 2021 engine on our trail mower is working well. Summer of 2022 we identified failing wheel bearings on the mower, and worn axles. We replaced the wheel bearings on all 8 wheels, we replaced the 4 axles, and various spacers and cup washers. The Pioneer with Mattracks easily floats 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.
- Red Pine timber sale - the red pine stand north of the trailhead was logged autumn 2022. It was dozed (smoothed) after the logging was completed. It needs grass seed summer 2023.
- Far east timber sale - a very large timber sale involving the Far East trails was logged late autumn 2022. There wasn’t time to haul the logs to market in the fall. The plan was to haul the logs to market in the winter using Bihlmeyer Road southeast of the ski trails. However, this didn’t happen – a tremendous amount of wood needs to be hauled to market – using Rut Road this summer (2023). Due to the wet nature of the involved Far East trails, most likely the logger will need to bring in loads of rock to firm up the routes the logging trucks will use. When the hauling is done, dozing will need to be performed, and grass seed needs to be spread.
- The workday in early October was attended by 13 hardy volunteers. Among other things, they picked rock and brushed the trail margins, and tidied up the warming house.
- Beaver problems on the West Side were status quo. We’re monitoring the beaver activity in the ponds near intersection I.
- In October 2017 Tom P and Steve P created a PVC ford on the small creek on the Westside southeast of Letter F. This PVC ford was removed (and disassembled) summer 2021. In its place, we can consider creating a log corduroy crossing each fall prior to the winter ski season.
- December early snowfalls were encouraging, then we were hammered by a devastating ice storm December 14-15 2022. It took a week for the access road (Fire Lane Road) to be opened by the township. The tree damage at the trailhead was shocking! We even considered canceling the ski season. However, we decided to rent heavy equipment (a backhoe and a skid steer) from Timber Supply & Rental at a cost of about $5500 for the 5-day rental. Our groomers (Ron B and Ed G) had experience with this type of equipment, and were paid about $2000 for three 12-hour days operating the equipment while removing tree damage from about 45% of the East Side trails. Excelsior Road on the West Side was cleared of tree damage by Scott Gudis using his big backhoe – Scott was reimbursed by Rusk County Forestry Department for his work on Excelsior Road. BHTA received $1100 from Rusk County Forestry Department for our work clearing damage from Johns Creek Road (a forestry road). Moisture rich snowfalls kept coming, the snow kept building up, and somehow we were able to clear tree damage from a few more trails using hand labor (incredibly difficult work in the deep snow – removing ice crusted frozen tree tops covered with 2-3 feet of snow). The overall snowfall for the winter measured 104 inches. Tom has kept snowfall records for 25 years – the previous record was 89 inches. Much of the grooming this past winter was done in the evening – producing nice firm trails to start the day – and despite the limited number of open trails, skiers were uniformly happy throughout the winter. The trails were in great shape at Birkie time. A deep base was still present in late March and early April. One week of record warmth around April 10th finally melted the base.
- The last grooming was March 20th, but cool weather and deep snows allowed skiing until early April.
- We groomed a total of only 33 times this past winter. 5 times in December, 10 times in January, 12 times in February, and 6 times in March.
- Ron Beebe again was the head groomer, this was his fourth season as head groomer, and his fifth season overall. He received assistance primarily from Ed Gauthier and Ryan Vreeland. Ron is very willing to try different techniques, and again performed far more evening grooming than in years past - this allowed the grooming to set up by the time skiers arrived in the morning. The classic track was generally in good shape most of the winter. Thank you Ron!
- After selling our 2014 Gator April 2021, this was our second winter using the Honda Pioneer 1000 with Mattracks as our workhorse machine. Other than the mechanical issues mentioned earlier, the Pioneer and Mattracks setup worked very well. This setup has the power and traction to handle just about anything we expect to face during grooming season. Time will tell whether or not the Honda transmission is reliable, and whether the Mattracks can withstand the workload.
Signage: Tom replaced the few trail signs that went missing.
Snowshoe trail: maintained by John Kann and Dan Bjugstad. Visitors clearly enjoy these snowshoe trails, the number of users is considerable. With the 2022 Red Pine logging operation near the warming house, both the ‘Nordic Pines’ and the ‘Rolling Oaks’ trails were wiped out. In January and February 2023, John created two new loops off the ‘Ridges’ snowshoe trail (the ‘Highlands Loop’ and the ‘Hillside Loop’) that were a great addition! John also demarcated the ‘Rope-A-Dope Loop’ as part of the ‘Ridges’ trail. Many thanks to John and Dan!
- 2022 Tom added solar powered panels on the storage containers to provide continuous charging of the batteries on any implements in those buildings.
- The Honda Pioneer is wider than the Gator. The operator needs to be very careful when entering/exiting the storage shed.
- Northwest HVAC modified the warming house furnace pilot light in April 2018 to minimize the offensive gas odor. Tom now cleans the pilot 1-2 times per year – using compressed air and a small brush. This seems to keep the interior gas odor to a minimum.
- Eric Ringstad evaluated the warming house interior/exterior for necessary repairs summer 2019. With his recommendations, during each fall work day we indeed to stuff sheep’s wool in multiple interior and exterior gaps. Perhaps because the gaps are fairly well sealed, there was no evidence of bat activity inside the warming house the past three winters. Extra sheep’s wool is on the shelf in the storage shed.
- After pressure washing the exterior in August 2020, we noticed obvious signs of powderpost beetles on the exterior logs (powder dust trails below their ⅛" diameter holes). After some quick research, Tom obtained a special boric acid powder that was mixed with water, then sprayed on the exterior before Dave Roth applied the stain. Later during the fall 2020, the holes and dust trails were still noticeable. At that time, Tom injected the boric acid solution directly into the holes. The beetle holes were again noticeable autumn 2021, and Tom again injected the boric acid solution. We’ll monitor the beetles each year, but the potential beetle damage seems like a small issue not worth stressing over.
- Since we don't need to insulate the warming house as tightly as a private residence, Lee Westlund (the warming house builder) has recommended we not bother caulking the entire 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 have a supply of sheep's wool (wool ropes to repair any insulation gaps) in a bin in the storage shed.
- Tom keeps the mice under control using traps and/or bait located under the furnace.
- Those in attendance agreed our website remains a highly useful portal in providing info for members and visitors. Tom regularly distributes email messages that update trail conditions, grooming plans, and pertinent happenings. This email message list has grown to 290 contacts. About 60-70% of the subscribers open those messages. We occasionally distribute messages using our Facebook and Instagram accounts. We have a Twitter account, but haven’t been using it. We appreciate our members providing trail condition updates to skinnyski.com
- In December 2020, we switched the host and software for our website – using Webflow. The new website was designed by Kristine Paulsen who continues providing expertise as needed. Thanks Kristine! Tom Paulsen continues handling the website, frequently updating trail conditions and other pertinent information. We pay a yearly fee ($192) to use Webflow, and this includes the hosting at Webflow.
- Kirk Paulsen remains our consultant for our highly accurate georeferenced maps that are used in the field and on our website. Based on occasional trailhead conversations with visitors, more and more trail users are taking advantage of the Avenza Maps App on their phones – both our East Side and West Side maps are available free for visitors to follow themselves on their smartphones. Thanks Kirk!
Ski clinic: due to the Covid pandemic, as well as the ice storm, there was no ski clinic this past December.
Current annual dues are $60 for individuals, $100 for families. Dues were increased by $10/$25 in October 2022, and the number of memberships decreased from 133 (in 2021-22) to 115 (in 2022-23) while we dealt with a devastating December ice storm and record setting snowfalls. Tom P (treasurer) recommends no change in our annual dues for 2023-2024. Geary Searfoss moved to keep our annual dues as $60 for individuals, $100 for families, seconded by Jan Paulsen, passed unanimously.
Our current daily trailhead fee was increased four years ago from $5 to $10 (encouraging users to donate based on their level of enjoyment – suggesting a $10 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. Tom Paulsen moved to keep the daily fee as a requested $10, second by John Waldron, passed unanimously.
Bylaws Change: In our bylaws, the last sentence of Article IV, 4.1 reads as follows… “The officers are eligible for re-election, but no officer may serve more than three consecutive terms.” Tom P moved that the bylaws be changed to delete the portion that reads “but no officer may serve more than three consecutive terms.” Second by Geary Searfoss. This was discussed. Then the motion passed unanimously.
- Assuming the COVID-19 pandemic is under control, we expect to have an in person banquet, with an on-line auction leading up to that. We have reserved Saturday, November 4, 2023 at Lehman's Supper Club in Rice Lake for this year’s banquet. For the on site gathering, we would again offer a select number of silent auction items, and one or two major raffles.
- We need a volunteer to chair the banquet committee and serve as emcee. Tom will send out an email looking for a volunteer.
- For this year's November banquet, Tom has a few ideas: Roger Gray (describing his 2022 bike ride the length of the Mississippi River); Dan Woll from River Falls (author of ‘North of Highway 8’ and a couple other novels that incorporate adventure sports); Nicholas Hoffmann from Madison (author of ‘Wheel Fever’ - he’s an avid cyclist, has a masters in history, and speaks re: ‘Sports & Recreation’). Jan suggested we also consider a guest speaker focused on skiing. Tom will check with Bjorn Hanson to see if he’s aware of a potential guest speaker with a skiing focus.
- We would like to see the kids’ Nordic Rocks ski instruction program further developed in Bruce. Using loaned equipment from Ladysmith, a one week trial the winter of 2018-19 was well accepted in the PE classes for the elementary grade students. The next step would be the purchase of 30 pairs of skis & poles at a cost of $1995. At our May 2019 annual meeting, we approved the donation of $1000 from BHTA if the Bruce community and Rusk County were able to match this amount. We discussed the Nordic Rocks program, we all agree it's a good idea for the Bruce School. The PE teacher is important to the success and needs to be very supportive -- and according to Sam B there's a newly hired PE teacher that could be contacted. But for the Nordic Rocks program to succeed in Bruce, someone other than the PE teacher needs to champion the program. Perhaps Avery Newman (one of our members in Bruce) can look for partner funding and grant opportunities.
- Tom Paulsen will again spearhead the fall fundraising; John Waldron has taken Mike Cragg’s position as a fundraising contact for Rice Lake. As in the past, fundraising appeals will focus on supportive individuals and businesses, and BHTA members.
- Tom Paulsen will need help stuffing envelopes for the August annual mailing. Tom will seek helpers (via email messaging) later this summer.
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 and the COVID pandemic isn’t active. To enhance attendance, we’ll use a Saturday as the most likely day for the event. Members seem to prefer a potluck approach.
- Purchased in 2012, our trail mower is in good shape and with its new 2021 engine and new wheel bearings should last another 10-20 years. Annual preventive maintenance on the mower is performed each spring before we start our summer mowing.
- Our 2020 Honda Pioneer 1000 underwent annual maintenance in April. We need to keep a close eye on the right rear rubber track, and replace it when the rubber drive lugs start dropping off. Thanks to John Waldron for trailering the Honda back and forth!
- The actuator motors on our G2 grooming implements need to be evaluated prior to this next winter. Tom will see if Ron Beebe can help with this.
- We’ve already had several successful work crew sessions this spring to deal with damage from the December 2022 ice storm. With the officers’ input regarding trail priorities, Tom will reach out to members/supporters via email to coordinate further work sessions this summer and fall.
- Another option to clear tree damage is hiring a work crew from the Flambeau Correctional Center. The contact person is Sergeant Brian Petkovsek. They charge $4/man/hour and $15/saw. Crew sizes are 4-8 individuals. They are currently booked through mid June.
- Now that logging has been completed on the Far East trails, the East Side has a new trail laid out and ready for development. It will run from intersection #18 to intersection #C4. This was flagged by Tom P, Jerry Schneider, and the Forestry Department quite a few years ago. It probably needs to be reflagged by BHTA, then have trees marked by the Forestry Department and dozer operator(s). At that point, it would be most efficient to use Scott Gudis to remove stumps using his backhoe, and to use Bob Hauser (DNR forester and dozer operator) to do the dozing. Hopefully the Forestry Department would help with grass seed. Perhaps this could happen summer 2023, but it might need to wait until 2024.
- Rusk County Forestry will seed the trails that were bulldozed bare as part of the two 2022 timber sales (Red Pines north of the warming house, and Far East timber sale) that were completed last fall.
- Bridges: Steve Poethke (Rice Lake) is monitoring our bridges. The first bridge (small) between 1-26 has settled and may need to be replaced with a new bridge with longer stringers - set further back from the edge of the small creek. The sagging bridge east of #25 needs periodic evaluation of its support. Summer 2018 we removed part of the decking so large riprap could be added to fortify the west side of the creek. Tom P will remind the Forestry Department to evaluate this bridge as a potential site for replacement with a flatbed trailer (which would require DNR permits).
- This past fall/winter, Steve Poethke used his engineering background to evaluate our bridges. He feels that our weakest bridges are capable of handling a load of 4000#, and that our stronger bridges can handle a bigger load. Our Honda Pioneer probably weighs 2500# when loaded. Our big G2 weighs 440# before it accumulates snow.
- 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 Cooperative (JREC) power line is running. JREC 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 $4200 (as of March 2021). In March 2021, Tom applied for a $1000 grant to help cover the cost – that was rejected. Note that JREC rejected our request to donate toward the cost of building this boardwalk. And note that recurrent beaver activity may flood the spot where a boardwalk would be located. This winter 0f 2021-22, very cold temps froze the moving water and allowed our use of the lower route below the beaver dam. With ice storm damage December 2022, we didn’t even try opening or grooming that area this past winter. Currently, if grooming that trail, we will continue to use the bypass path that runs right next to the beaver dam. Ron Beebe suggested we erect a snow fence north of the beaver dam each winter, this would help minimize drifting that periodically blocks the trail next to the beaver dam – we’ll consider that option as the winter develops. We also will be able to use the plow on our Honda Pioneer to help deal with the drifts. Another thing to consider: with the development of the new trail that will connect Excelsior Road to the Lollipop Loop (from Y to Z), we may consider limiting the grooming of the far west loop on the West Side – and groom it only when snow conditions are ideal.
- Brief discussion regarding beaver control and future modification/revision of the West Side trails. Some possibilities include: no further attempts at repairing areas flooded by beaver activity including the East-West crossover trail; instead of grooming the entire West Side, set aside the beaver flooded areas for a more wilderness experience for snowshoers and skiers; installation of pipe and cage leveler systems across beaver dams to allow our trails to coexist with the beavers. Tom P will discuss these options (and more) when communicating with the head of the Forestry Department.
- Beavers have increased their activity in the pond south of the ‘new’ West Side bridge located west of Letter I. This is where we installed a small beaver deceiver device November 2021 - it’s no longer functioning, it’s plugged, it’s pipe diameter probably was too small. We’ll continue monitoring this site this summer/fall, and consider adding a more sophisticated beaver deceiver shortly prior to winter setting in.
- There is a plugged culvert on the West Side half way between intersections K and L with shallow water over the trail. This will need to be unplugged or replaced. Perhaps Steve P can help evaluate this spot in more detail.
- Mowing plans – no change. Rusk County usually mows the Westside in July, and portions of the Eastside that can withstand the weight of their mowing equipment. For the damp (soft) areas on the Eastside, we plan on again using volunteer labor operating the Honda Pioneer pulling our trail mower. Tom will need a crew of about 6 volunteers to help with the mowing. Tom will send out an appeal soon to recruit the mowing crew.
- One board needs replacement on the north side of the bridge at A4. The mowing crew should make note of this.
- We need to select a fall work day – our officers will do that later this summer.
- The bridge between #25/#26 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 B and John K, Tom discovered a very desirable new route from #26 to the top of the hill north of #25 that would allow a better creek crossing. Tom has looked at this with forester Jeremy Koslowski – and Tom needs to remind the Forestry Department to investigate this further – including potential DNR permits etc.
- One timber sale is active on the East Side, one on the West Side. Maps outlining these timber sales were shown to attendees; discussion followed.
- Ron Beebe remains interested in handling most of the wintertime grooming. This past winter was Ed Gauthier’s second winter as Ron’s main helper. Ryan Vreeland has been helping for several years, and remains available quite often. Steve Hoffelt recently signed on by receiving a groomer’s contract and needs training this next winter. Ahmyn Masci may be available again in the future if his snow plowing obligations diminish. If any of our members know of someone interested in grooming our trails, please contact one of our officers.
- 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 a survey in April 2018.
- The April 2018 survey showed that favorite trails are the Eastside Core Loop, the Westside, the Eastside trails on the far east (Otter Slide, & Far East), Roundabout, and Roller Coaster. And since its introduction a couple years ago, Excelsior Road (West Side) is a favorite.
- We will consider a fall meeting between officers and groomers if it seems necessary.
Signage: 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 and laminating 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.
- We’ll keep an open mind for future development of fat bike trails, but we all agree that this would take a tremendous amount of work. John K and Dan B are open to the idea of shared use of the snowshoe trails as fat bike trails, but they would need an amazing amount of help from fat bike enthusiasts to make this happen. The Forestry Department supports the concept of adding bike trails. We could also consider the future possibility of purchasing a ‘SnowDog’ groomer for a fat bike trail. Bottom line - dedicated bike trails on our trail system will only happen if a group of bike enthusiasts takes responsibility for developing and maintaining them.
- The blue shipping container could benefit from rust removal and painting. Summer 2020, Tom got a bid from Dave Roth (professional painter) that was over $1000. We all agreed that’s too much money to spend on restoring this old container. Instead, we adopted the plan to patch and repair as needed, and consider replacing in the future with a like-new container.
- Tom P and Bob W recently added two large vents to the blue shipping container. Similar vents could be added to the larger gray shipping container if it seems too damp this summer.
- The northwest corner of the warming house has shingles that were damaged by a tree fall in December’s ice storm. Tom recently contacted a roofer and requested an estimate for repair of the damaged shingles.
- The women’s pit toilet was damaged by a tree fall in December’s ice storm. The vent stack was dislodged, Tom repaired the damage. We need to watch for roof leaks.
- The frame of the roof on the men’s pit toilet was damaged by a tree fall in December’s ice storm. Tom has discussed repair with Jim Sirek (Rice Lake). Hopefully Jim can fix this.
- Jan P is in charge of cleaning the women’s pit toilet. This requires occasional sweeping of the floor and 'dusting' of the shelves; and adding some lye to the toilets. We need a volunteer to take charge of cleaning the men’s toilet to possibly include repair of 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 2021.
Annual Fall Work Day: to be selected later this summer.
Website: Tom will continue to manage the 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.
- Following some recent rude behavior by visitors to the warming house, Tom purchased a trail camera that we could place inside the warming house if problems persist. The sheriff’s department is always willing to keep a close eye on the trailhead if and when we think it’s more important. This past year, Sam also added quite a few solar powered motion activated LED lights between the warming house and the storage buildings.
- Summer 2021 Tom P created brochures for BHTA. They’ve been distributed inside the warming house, and at the visitor center in Ladysmith. We will ask our membership to volunteer to distribute brochures at their favorite ski shops, etc. Tom will check on printing options (locally by the County Tourism office, or by Jump River Electric Coop; or perhaps UW Eau Claire printing services), and report back to the officers.
- We discussed trying to get a better presence on the skinnyski.com trail reports, and agreed its website is fairly outdated. This coming winter, Tom P will remind our members to submit occasional reports. Our most reliable options for communicating our trail conditions are continued frequent updates on our website, frequent email messages on our subscription email list, and use of our Instagram and Facebook posts.
- In the past, John Kann wondered about any possible plans for assisting an individual skier that is injured and unable to return to the trailhead. The critical item is a container that will withstand the weather, bears, porcupines, etc. Geary suggested we consider bear proof containers similar to those found in campgrounds. Tom will check the price of bear proof containers. The kits might include a space blanket, matches, candle, and a map showing areas of possible cell phone service. If we placed a rescue kit at every third intersection on the East Side Core Loop, the kits would be nicely spaced.
To be carried over with additions as highlighted in bold
- Banquet Committee
We Need A (chair and emcee)
- Fun Day / Full Moon Ski Committee
- Equipment Committee
Ron Jasperson, Bob Wieckowicz (chair)
Jan Paulsen, Tom Paulsen, John Waldron
- Grooming and Trail Maintenance Committee
Jerry Schneider, Steve P (chair)
- Ski Clinic Committee
- Snowshoe Trail
Dan Bjugstad, John Kann (chair)
Tom Paulsen (chair)
Motion to adjourn by Jan Paulsen, second by John Waldron. Adjourned 7:40 p.m.
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