by Dennis Dalman
The City of Sartell may be one step closer to making a decision on what to do about worn sections of biking-hiking trails in the city.
At its July 9 council meeting, council members agreed to authorize city staff and the city engineer to get detailed cost estimates from contractors and also to consider all options for repairing the trails (and the costs) and even the possibility of abandoning some portions of the trails.
Most sections of the damaged trails were caused by the intrusion of willow routes near ponds. The roots have cracked the bituminous surface and caused cracks and ruined surfaces that make the trails potentially unsafe. There are four damaged sections under consideration for repairs: one north of Grizzly Lane and one south of Grizzly Lane in The Wilds neighborhood, the 2-1/2 Street trail connection and the Regional Medical Arts Trail.
The length of the trail sections vary, but all are under 1,000 feet.
About a month ago, the council referred the trail-repair issue back to the Sartell Park Commission. In late June, the park commission and Sartell City Engineer Jeremy Mathiasen agreed the best way, considering a tight budget, is to fix just the sections that are clearly damaged by root intrusions. Ways to repair the trail sections include perhaps narrowing the trails in some places, moving some areas away from pond-moist vegetation areas and using a biological product that causes roots to grow away from underneath the trails. The rough estimate of the cost of trail-section repairs is about $50,000, Mathiasen told the council.
The council peppered Mathiasen with questions
Why not abandon the less-used portions of The Wilds trails? Neighbors in that area could decide to do that.
What will happen if the damaged portions are repaired and then the undamaged portions quickly become ruined too? Mathiasen said that could happen, but careful coordination with a contractor could result in using less heavy equipment so adjoining trail sections would not be damaged.
Council members agreed with the park board a policy should be developed under which all city trails could be examined periodically for damage and a rating system developed to prioritize which sections of which trails would require repairs in the future.
Everyone in the council chambers agreed there is no “easy fix” for the trail problems. Ideally, a concrete trail might be the best answer, but that solution would be prohibitively expensive, it was noted at a previous council meeting.
“We need better answers,” said council member Sarah Jane Nicoll.
Mathiasen said he will do more research to present to the council. Time is not an urgency, he noted, as a trails-repair project could be done in August or even September.