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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The snowmobile route in Colfax could include the Outhouse Tavern this winter.
State statutes allow snowmobiles to cross state Highway 40, said Mike Buchner, president of the Colfax Sno-drifters, at the Colfax Village Board’s November 25 meeting.
Last year, the Colfax Village Board approved a snowmobile route in Colfax that included the east side of Dunn Street to Railroad Avenue and west to Synergy Cooperative and designated the Synergy parking lot for snowmobiles if the snowmobile operators were planning to visit any business on Highway 40/Main Street.
The Outhouse does not like the idea of patrons parking in the Synergy lot and then walking to reach the tavern, Buchner said, noting that the snowmobile operators also are reluctant to leave their snowmobiles in the Synergy parking lot unattended.
“I can understand why they don’t want to leave them unattended,” said Mark Halpin, village trustee.
Village Trustee Anne Jenson, the owner of A Little Slice of Italy, said she had stood in her restaurant last year and had watched people “messing around” with unattended snowmobiles in the Synergy parking lot.
State statute allows snowmobiles to cross any roadway that is fewer than five lanes of traffic, said Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer.
The snowmobiles could cross Highway 40 from the Synergy parking lot and go to Legion Drive and then to the Outhouse parking lot, she said.
Several village board members expressed concern that snowmobile operators would cross Highway 40 and then proceed south on Highway 40 to reach the Outhouse.
Buchner said snowmobilers do not like to operate their machines on blacktop and would be more interested in taking the Legion Drive route.
“If they cut across, it goes away,” Niggemann said, adding that the signs pointing out the snowmobile route to the Outhouse would have to prominently mark the route.
Niggemann also noted that Timber Technologies loads rail cars along Legion Drive and that snowmobiles could not interfere in any way with loading rail cars.
Buchner said the Sno-drifters have ordered more signs to mark routes in the village.
The snowmobile route approved by the village board last year includes the east side of Dunn Street to Railroad Avenue, east to county Highway M, north to Highway 40; the east side of Dunn Street to Railroad Avenue, east toward the east driveway of the Colfax Fairgrounds to the footbridge, across Highway 40 to Johnson-Olson Road, and then west on High Street to Colfax High School; the east side of Dunn Street to Railroad Avenue and west to Synergy Cooperative; and from the Synergy Cooperative parking lot to Express Mart via the alley east of Synergy.
The Colfax Sno-drifters applied for grants from the state Department of Natural Resources for two snowmobile bridges that would be located behind Colfax Evergreen Cemetery on property owned by the Colfax school district, Buchner said.
By next fall, the snowmobile trail will cross Highway M near Sampson Funeral Home, he said.
Village board members wondered how soon the snowmobile trails would open if a sufficient amount of snow falls.
The snowmobile trails cannot open until after the muzzle loading season is finished for deer hunting, Buchner said.
Scott Gunnufson, village president, asked if the Sno-drifters had ever considered branching out to include All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs).
Members of the Sno-drifters have talked about it, Buchner said.
The snowmobile bridges could not be used for ATVs/UTVs, he noted.
The Sno-drifters could only get funding for the bridges as long as no ATVs/UTVs would be using them, Buchner said.
The DNR and the county are concerned about erosion around the snowmobile bridges. The ground is frozen when the snowmobiles are operating, so erosion is not a problem, but the bridges are in a flood plain, and the ground would not be frozen when ATVs/UTVs are operating, he said.
Niggemann said she would modify the resolution the village board had approved last year for snowmobile routes in the village to include crossing Highway 40 to Legion Drive and would put the resolution on the agenda for the next village board meeting.
The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved a motion to table the resolution designating snowmobile routes until the next village board meeting.
The next regular meeting of the Colfax Village Board is on December 9.