A proposed snowmobile route through Backus was turned down because of potential damage to the city streets and because of airport safety regulations.

The Ponto Knight Riders snowmobile club, which grooms snowmobile trails throughout the area, approached the Backus City Council on Monday, Dec. 2, seeking approval for a spur connecting snowmobilers on the Paul Bunyan Trail to the Aspen Trail to the east, which goes to Aitkin. Snowmobile club member Merle Weaver said the club was interested in seeking a route that goes past the Corner Store so snowmobilers could refuel locally.

In past years the group connected the two trails using a different route, but the club has since lost access to that route. The newly proposed route would have used the road in front of Foothills Christian Academy to cross to the dirt road near the Backus Municipal Airport. The proposed route would have then been groomed to cross the field at one end of the airport.

The council had several issues with the route, the first being that studs from snowmobile tracks could cause significant damage to the paved street by the school. Given the money the city has been spending to repave this and other streets in the city lately, this was an immediate issue. Council members also did not seem fond of snowmobiles being on the road with vehicles.

As for the route near the airport, it was determined that the city cannot legally approve the crossing there because of a Minnesota Department of Transportation rule on public airport licensing. While the proposed route would not cross the actual runway, part of that rule bans “all persons not engaged in flight activities from having access to a position of danger with relation to aircraft in the vicinity of building areas and on the flight line.” The proposed route is within that flight line.

The route near the airport is not a currently approved spur of the trail; however, Weaver said snowmobilers (not necessarily club members) already use the route as a nonofficial route. It was indicated that the MnDOT's current airport inspector is strict and, as such, snowmobilers' continued use of that route could result in a MnDOT requirement that the airport install a fence to prevent snowmobile crossings there, which is technically required by the MnDOT rule.

Because the proposed route was not feasible or legal for the city, Weaver said the only alternative is to move the spur two miles out of town through a route that does not pass near the Corner Store.

In other business Monday, the council:

  • Approved annual reimbursement to Scamp Trailer company on its city tax increment financing agreement.
  • Reviewed a request by someone looking at property on the outskirts of the city and inquiring about keeping horses. The council determined city ordinances would allow at least two horses on the property, possibly more depending on where they are kept on the property due to restrictions in the city ordinance pertaining to shoreland district rules.