Recently, a piece of property that had been used as a snowmobile trail for many years was blocked from use by a new owner.
The Crosslake City Council discussed the matter at its year-end meeting Thursday, Dec. 27.
The property, located on County Road 16, had been a place where snowmobiles used a driveway to cross from Cross Lake over County Road 16 to get to Rush Lake, as the channel between Rush and Cross lakes often remains open throughout the winter.
Pictures presented to the council show the new owner put a fence up at the County Road 16 entrance to the property, and a length of dock was placed parallel to the Cross Lake shoreline, blocking the path from water onto land.
It was reported that the trail had been used for as many as 50 years. Kirk Schnitker, a Crosslake property owner, contacted Mayor Darrell Schneider about the closure of the property to snowmobilers because he felt it could be a safety hazard.
Schnitker had also suggested that because the property had been used for so long, there could be a common law dedication to the people for its use.
To cross County Road 16 at other nearby areas, snowmobilers must get up a steep embankment, which drops them almost directly onto the road, council member John Moengen said. He sees it as an unsafe situation, concerned that a snowmobile will get hit by a car.
He also pointed out that it’s difficult to hold anyone accountable for any damage done to the property by the snowmobiles, which is unfair to the property owner.
City attorney Michael Couri, through email correspondence with city staff, explained that the city has no liability or ownership over snowmobile trails. From the city’s perspective, there are no legal concerns.
Couri said that while no policy prevents the city from acquiring snowmobile trails, acquiring the trail may not be desirable, as the city would become responsible for any injuries that occur on the trail and trail upkeep.
Concerns were also expressed by city staff that the fence put up on the property may not meet the requirements of city code, though proper measurements were difficult to conduct with snow covering the property.
The council agreed to send a letter to the Ideal Sno Pros Snowmobile Club and the property owner concerning the situation, and to encourage a discussion on what it would take to create a safer trail from Cross to Rush lake.