Restricting snowmobile access in the city of Columbus continues to be debated by city officials and local snowmobile enthusiasts.
Oct. 17, the Columbus Common Council discussed options for snowmobile routes at both its regular meeting and the committee of the whole session at city hall. At its Oct. 3 meeting, council members said since the local snowmobile club, the Columbus/Fall River Blazers, hadn’t presented a route map to the city and due to apparent damage on city streets and residential areas from last season, the city may repeal an ordinance allowing usage within city limits.
Several members of the Blazers attended meetings, expressing concern with the possible ordinance change and showing willingness to work with Columbus to find solutions.
“I am 21 years old and this group has given me an incredible amount of opportunities,” said Blazers member Kendra Minick. “I was able to hold leadership positions at a young age. We’re not just about running around on our snowmobiles, having fun on the weekends, we are about coming together and creating good individuals in the community.”
Minick also said the club asks residents every year for permission to ride across their land and holds a brunch after every season to thank landowners. She said the club puts in work to make sure residents allow permission to use their land.
“I just want to show how much this club means to me and the community,” Minick said. “I know a lot of young individuals have gotten a lot from this club and it would mean a lot for us to still go into town and access local businesses. We want to support them and thank them for everything they do for us.”
Club member Jake Boness also addressed the council and said he would work with city officials to develop alternative options.
“We do realize last year was a black eye for us,” Boness said. “But we take pride in this town. We want to know what should be done to make this better.”
City council members told Boness they realize most club members obey laws and regulations, but noted there have been problems the past few years with riders traveling too close to houses in the city. Mayor Michael Thom said damage to sidewalks last year could have come from out of town visitors who didn’t know the city’s regulations.
“It’s hard to tell if the damage was done from residents or non-residents,” Thom said. “It would be good to know how many snowmobilers we have in town. Maybe for $10 they could purchase a sticker that would allow them more access to their houses and throughout the city. But that’s just an idea for down the road; we wouldn’t be able to do that this year.”
One of the club’s main concerns is access to gas stations within Columbus. The city is reviewing a new map as part of an ordinance proposal that would allow limited access in Columbus.
During the committee of the whole meeting, council members discussed possible edits to the draft ordinance. City Attorney Paul Johnson said he will make the changes and bring the ordinance back to the council for consideration at the Nov. 7 meeting.
“This is a Band-Aid to get us through this year,” said council member Regan Hendrickson. “We can continue the discussion but at least we have it set up to allow continual access.”
Council member Matt Kenney said right-of-access may still be a problem because there’s no way to protect city streets.
“I don’t have a problem with access to gas stations,” council president Regan Rule said. “I don’t like people going through residential neighborhoods. I’m concerned about sleds going up and down our streets. It will tear them up.”
Johnson said the ordinance the city is considering would allow riders to use private property with consent from 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.
“The replacement ordinance you have here is pretty rigid,” Johnson said. “It takes out the inter-city trail, public access and just about everything unless you have a landowner who wants to zip around in his backyard.”
Columbus may also consider a map which would allow riders to cross roads to access county trails. The issue will be considered again at the Nov. 7 meeting.
Street opening celebration
The extensive James Street road construction project will end soon and city resident JD Milburn wants to celebrate.
Milburn presented his idea to the council Oct. 17 and it granted him permission to close part of the street for a celebration Friday, Oct. 27, starting at 2 p.m. and ending at 7 p.m. with a bonfire at Kiwanis Park.
Milburn said because of the time crunch, the celebration wouldn’t be “too elaborate,” but would allow businesses to reconnect with patrons before the street gets filled with traffic.
“When are we ever going to be able to have something like this again?” Milburn said.
The block party would be similar to the library’s celebration Oct. 3 where a small portion of the street was closed.