Blue Hills Trail CONDITIONS
The trails are in good shape, they have a thin layer of crusty snow.
Heads Up! There's active logging on the East Side (details below).
1-Avoid the following East Side trail segments where there's active logging: 4 to 5, 4 to B1, B1 to 5.
2-Logging on the West Side between intersections Y & Z was done in June.
3-Autumn 2022, loggers cut a big 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.
December 9: 1/2" wet snow
grooming & MOWING
Grooming Report / Plans:
Ski trail grooming begins some time in early-mid December after the deer gun hunts wind down, and the weather cooperates.
Blue Hills Trail Association Inc.
May 20, 2015 7:05 PM
Meeting called to order
by Dave Olsen, president, at 6:05 p.m. at Burdy's Bar and Grill (Weyerhaeuser, WI)
Officers: Ron Jasperson, Dave Olsen, Tom Paulsen
Members: Lynette Anderson, Dan Bale, Dan Bjugstad, Mike Cragg, Nels Curnow, Lisa Dobrowolski, Patty McGown, Jan Paulsen, Steve P, Dennis Villeneuve, John Ziemer
Motion by Ron Jasperson, second by Lisa Dobrowolski, to dispense with reading of the prior minutes and to accept the May 2014 minutes. Unanimously carried.
The fiscal year runs September 1 to August 31 inclusive. An interim budget report was presented by Tom Paulsen. Revenue ($45346.95) exceeded expenses ($42569.13) by $2777.82. Overall expenses were well above budget due to equipment purchases/maintenance, and purchase of a shipping container for storage of the Gator; mowing expenses decreased because we used all volunteer labor. Revenue was well above budget thanks to $11400 pledged April 2014 by 30 individuals toward the purchase of the Gator - plus successful banquet fundraising, and significant increases in business/individual donations, memberships, trailhead receipts - along with $6000 from the sale of our 2008 Skandic snowmobile. On the downside, we are noticing a decrease in revenue from shoppers using Amazon.com via our website. Our bottom line shows a positive balance at this time (available cash) of $26893.25. Discussion was held. Motion was made by Mike Cragg to approve the Treasurer's report as presented, and seconded by John Ziemer. Unanimously carried.
- Election of officers
- Old Business
- Membership Fees
- New Business
- Designate committee members for the upcoming year
Election of Officers
The current officers agreed to serve another one-year term. Patty McGown nominated Dave Olsen for president, Ron Jasperson for vice president, and Tom Paulsen for secretary/treasurer. This was seconded by Nels Curnow, and passed unanimously.
Fall banquet: held at Lehman's Supper Club in Rice Lake. Patty McGown reported that attendance was good (55), the food was delicious, and Bob Unbehaun's presentation "Paddle the Puddle" was thoroughly enjoyed. The banquet was financially successful (raising $2800 from sales of silent auction items). The method used for prize distribution worked well (primarily silent auctions).
Blue Hills Ascent: no attempt at hosting a race this past year, the costs to host a small race remain prohibitive. A "Fun Day on the Trails" (a potluck moonlight ski) was held Friday March 6, 2015. It was well attended (approximately 30 participants from wide ranging locales), temps and snow conditions were ideal, food was great, a roaring fire and Tiki lighting added to the mood, and forecast clouds were replaced by clear skies and moonlight. Truly a memorable evening.
Website: those in attendance agreed the website remains very functional. The Rice Lake server that hosted our website (Tice Technologies) was hacked in December 2014. Malware was discovered on their server, and our website was briefly shut down. Fortunately, our website itself was never compromised. Within a few days, our website was moved to a new host; switching to this more secure host will cost about $130 per year. This also was an ideal time to redesign the website using a different software platform - many thanks to Kristine Paulsen (Missoula, MT) for volunteering her tech-savvy skills and artistic touches with the website redesign - which now includes a mobile site. The website remains very useful in providing info for members and visitors, and we are increasingly using Facebook and Twitter to attract visitors to the Blue Hills Trail. We continue to provide business links (free of charge) to local donors in the business of ski/bike sales, and lodging. Suggestions for further improvement of our internet presence are always welcome.
Fundraising: fundraising was highly rewarding this past year. We received great support from the April 2014 'Gator pledge drive' ($11400). For the year, business donations increased by $2400 ($7800), individual donations increased by $1800 ($5200), trailhead donations set a record ($4000), we sold our 2008 snowmobile for $6000, memberships increased from 92 to 94 households ($5400) despite raising membership fees by $10 - this fee increase generated a $1000 increase in revenue. Revenue from shoppers visiting Amazon.com via our website dropped off ($155 this past year, $470 the prior year).
Equipment: not unexpectedly the May 2014 purchase of the John Deere Gator with Camoplast tracks ($23150) increased equipment costs ($28840) well over budget ($3000). Many maintenance issues included: rewiring of all the grooming implements to simplify hookups; extension hitch for Gator; $550 for thorough autumn maintenance of Camoplast tracks; $300 to repair clutch in 2012 Skandic snowmobile; $675 to replace snow comb and extension flaps on medium G2. During the grooming season, monthly periodic service of the Gator was handled at no charge by Steve Gest, Ron Jasperson, Tom Paulsen, and Steve P. New purchases included: $600 for gooseneck hitch and ball mount for medium G2 and Skandic; $1600 for ABR 54" compaction drag with one set of 12" anti berm wings. Not included in this past fiscal year was a $1200 service fee at Cameron Tractor Central in April 2015 for end-of-season service on Gator including installation of front flood lights ($350) on the brush guard. The major costly item on the Gator service was replacement (preventive maintenance) of the Camoplast hub bearings ($600 including $150 parts, $450 labor).
Grooming and trail maintenance:
- The 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 included Sam Behrends, Steve Gest, Pete Grassman, Ron Jasperson, Tom Paulsen, and Steve P. Using volunteers for the mowing saved about $1000 in contracted labor costs.
- Anticipated logging of the Eastside ridgeline didn’t begin until well into late summer and fall when rains moved in, thus dozing of the new trail (2A to S-curve) was not possible.
- Work day in October was very well attended and cleared most of the trails.
- Ski trail grooming was handled mostly by Steve Gest with help from Jesse Wimer, Adam Brockman, Nels Curnow and Patty McGown, Ron Jasperson, Steve P, and Tom Paulsen. A heavy wet 15" snowfall on November 10th was followed by a month of cold temps during which time we groomed the Eastside hunter-walker loop and the Westside first loop, enjoying pretty decent early season skiing on those trails. Because the fall was wet and mild and the trails were covered by a heavy dense layer of snow, the frost wasn’t able to penetrate the ground on most of the trails until right after Christmas when more snow arrived, temps fell and we were able to begin packing and grooming the rest of the trail system. The winter of 2014-15 was actually quite dry in most of the upper Midwest, but the Blue Hills still had a decent base in late December and then received just enough snow (15" from January 1 to March 1) to provide very good conditions up until an early March warm-up that brought the ski season to a sudden close. The last grooming was March 11th and implements were moved to storage on March 13th. The Gator worked very well for grooming, its wide stable base allowed operators to groom closer to the trail edge without worrying about getting stuck. By grooming close to the edge, we created solid outside pole plants that were greatly appreciated by classic skiers.
- We discovered several mechanical issues with the Gator that were corrected without requiring a trip back to the dealership: many thanks to Mark Bittner for allowing the monthly use of his heated garage where we were able to thaw the tracks, grease the tracks, change oil, identify and fix an exhaust leak (loose oxygen sensor), and identify a coolant leak that was later repaired at the trailhead.
Snowshoe trail: further improved by John Kann, Jerry Schneider, Dan Bjugstad, Jim and Mary Jenkins.
- Tom Paulsen replaced the few trail signs and maps that went missing.
- In August, spearheaded by Carolyn Chatterton, a group of our volunteers worked with the Rusk Riders ATV club, the township of Atlanta, and the Rusk County Forestry Department to work out a mutual compromise that opened the Firelane Road to ATVs while designating the Westside as non-motorized throughout the year, and placing protective "No ATV" signage in various spots adjacent to the entire trail system. With support of the County Forestry Committee, the Rusk County Board passed the proposal at their meeting in September 2014. We split the $300 cost of "No ATV" signage with the Rusk Riders ATV club, and they installed the metal signs and signposts.
- under the guidance of Sam Behrends, the Bruce High School Ag Department students power washed and stained the exterior of the warming house May 2014.
- Difficulty lighting the furnace was discovered in October, and installers of the furnace (Northwest Refrigeration HVAC) corrected the issue - interestingly, any previous tendency for a 'gas odor' inside the warming house has since been absent.
Current annual dues are $45 for individuals, $65 for families. Dues were increased by $10 in October 2014, the number of memberships remained stable, and the increase resulted in $1000 of increased revenue. After a brief discussion, John Ziemer moved to keep the annual dues at $45 for individuals, $65 for families, this was seconded by Dan Bale, and passed unanimously. Trail head fees were discussed at length, with the decision to leave them unchanged (suggesting users donate based on their level of enjoyment, suggesting a $5 daily donation per person as a minimum). By not raising daily fees, this will allow many diverse individuals to access the trail system and help fulfill our mission as a non-profit organization. We trust that businesses and individuals doing well financially will continue to provide generous donations.
Fall Banquet: the approach for the annual fall fundraising banquet was discussed. We again will offer many silent auction items, and one or two major raffles. Patty McGown agreed to again head the banquet committee. Those in attendance agreed Lehman's Supper Club (Rice Lake) would again be a suitable location for the fund raising banquet. The date of November 7th has been set aside at Lehman’s in Rice Lake. A potluck at the warming house remains an alternative approach for future fundraisers.
Blue Hills Ascent vs Trail Fun Day: due to a history of low turnouts not covering the expenses, those in attendance did not feel that resuming the race was an option. We will try to coordinate 1-2 "Full Moon" ski events as a good way to socialize while attracting members/visitors. The occasional 'Ski Clinics' hosted by the Thatchers have been well appreciated, we will continue to support this.
Website: Tom Paulsen's goal is to keep it functional, straight forward, and to update frequently during ski season. Tom enjoys handling the website, but also is interested in training one of our members to take over the website - he will email the membership seeking a volunteer.
Equipment: we put about 2000 km (260 hours) on the Gator this past year (its first year). The 2012 Skandic SWT snowmobile received limited use this past winter, adding only about 420 km to its total (5900 km at end of winter). At this rate, the snowmobile won't need to be replaced for another 2-4 years. We have no idea of the life expectancy of the Gator, but plan on providing periodic maintenance per the manual (lubrication of drive line and tracks at 50 hour intervals, oil changes at 100 hour intervals) and thorough annual maintenance to probably include replacement of the Camoplast hub bearings. Dan Bartels is modifying the medium G2 by adding the recently purchased gooseneck hitch. No new equipment purchases anticipated this next year.
Fundraising: Tom and Jan Paulsen will again spearhead the fall fundraising in the Ladysmith area, with help from Dick Pebler 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 - Lynette Anderson, Dan Bale, Dan Bjugstad, and Dave Olsen volunteered.
- Steve P volunteered to coordinate summer/fall trail maintenance needs, and will refer to Carolyn Chatterton's 'Trail Timeline'. To clean the tracks on the Gator, running water is available at the Audie Campground pump house (2 miles from our trailhead).
- Rusk County usually mows the WestSide, 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. We will be using the same group of five volunteers that mowed last summer, with the addition of 2-3 more as needed.
- We expect summertime logging to complete the active Eastside timber sale, then will need to coordinate dozing (Gary Sarauer - DNR) of the new trail to run from 2A to the top of the S-curve between 2 and 20 (to include culvert placement by BHTA member Dave Putnam).
- Water is running down the trail and has created periodic gullies between 29A, 29 and below 29. Hopefully Gary Sarauer can repair this damage through dozing and creation of water bars. Perhaps BHTA member Sam Behrends can round up some of the Bruce Ag students to further modify this trail section by placing additional wooden water bars, etc.
- Two bridges between #1 and #31 need attention. Also, one board needs replacement on the bridge at #2. The bridge at #25 also needs some work on the uphill side to reduce soil loss adjacent to the bridge. Frank Lowry will inspect the bridges and plan repair work.
- An exposed/washed culvert (frost heave) is located near the 1st bridge between 1 and 23. A leftover roll of Excelsior fabric sits in the woods by the storage shed and could be placed on one side of the culvert. Ideally, that culvert should be re-situated some time in the future (perhaps a job for Dave Putnam???). Perhaps this summer’s logging could deal with problem culverts at #10 and east of #10. An exposed culvert just east of #7 needs to be re-situated - hopefully that will happen as part of an upcoming timber sale.
- Several upcoming timber sales are being prepared - Tom Paulsen showed a map from Paul Teska (Rusk County Forester) showing the planned timber sales.
- The Rusk County Forestry department is in the process of removing beavers on the Westside where beaver dams have adversely impacted the trails.
- 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. 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. The County Land Conservation Dept will send us an email in January with more information. Then Tom will contact Tyler Gruetzmacher and Mark Bittner to see if they are interested in pursuing such a project.
- Grooming and mowing implements will again be stored by one or more of our club members (names withheld from website) as a donation to the club.
Grooming team: Steve Gest expects to be our chief groomer again this next winter. We have commitments from the same group of available groomers, having added Mike Cragg and Dave Putnam as backups this last season. Hopefully Dan Bartels can help maintain equipment. Our goal remains quality grooming of the entire trail system with major emphasis on the Eastside core loop. The usual fall meeting between officers and groomers is anticipated.
- 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 suggested 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. Tom Paulsen will contact our members seeking a volunteer carpenter to assess the warming house for areas in need of general repair as well as placement of sheep's wool.
- We switched to Sheldon Coop (Heartland Coop) as the propane provider June 2010, they are delivering a good service. We plan on filling the tank this summer (July) when rates are the lowest.
Annual Fall Work Day: to be selected later this summer.
Ski Clinic: those in attendance appreciate the occasional ski clinics conducted by Steve and Jyneen Thatcher. Hopefully they can continue offering these teaching sessions.
- If the new Eastside trail is built this year (see 'Trail Improvements' above), we'd like to create a totally new GPS map of the Eastside trails. Dan Bjugstad is willing to help with the GPS mapping.
- 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. Tom Paulsen will seek volunteers for map replacement this fall.
Snowshoe trail: John Kann will continue to maintain and/or revise the snowshoe trail. Using an app on his phone, Dan Bjugstad has recently created a GPS map of the snowshoe trail and will forward this to Tom Paulsen for possible use on the website and trail maps.
Insurance: no changes anticipated, no discussion of this item.
Position of secretary / treasurer: Tom Paulsen has held this position for 10+ years and would appreciate the right person taking over. Tom will send an email to the membership seeking interested individuals.
Other: Dan Bale suggested we consider allowing snow bikes (fat tire bikes) to use the Blue Hills Trail during the ski season. Our current policy does not allow snow bikes. A lengthy discussion included options such as allowing snow bikes on a limited portion of the trails; or a single trial day of snow bike use; or encouraging snow bike enthusiasts to construct and groom their own trails. Our officers are not enthused about opening the ski trails to snow bikes, but will review options with a couple of our members (Mark Bittner and Frank Lowry) that have previously shown interest in the use of snow bikes.
To be carried over with additions as highlighted in bold
- Banquet Committee: Patty McGown (chair)
- Fun Day / Full Moon Ski Committee: open (chair)
- Equipment Committee: Dan Bartels, Steve Gest
- Fundraising: Jan Paulsen, Tom Paulsen, Dick Pebler
- Grooming and Trail Maintenance Committee: Frank Lowry, Steve P (chair), Jonathan Stanley
- Ski Clinic Committee: open
- Snowshoe Trail: John Kann (chair)
- Website: Tom Paulsen (chair)
Motion to adjourn by Jan Paulsen, second by Patty McGown. Adjourned at 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