TOWER- In the wake of recent snowfalls, the Howard Wagoner Ski Trails were set to be groomed on Dec. 24, and this year that task will be much easier than in the past.With support from grants and …
TOWER- In the wake of recent snowfalls, the Howard Wagoner Ski Trails were set to be groomed on Dec. 24, and this year that task will be much easier than in the past.
With support from grants and other donations, the Wagoner Trails Club recently purchased a new utility grade snowmobile, capable of pulling the equipment needed to pack and groom the 12km of ski trails, located just south of Tower off Hwy. 135.
“The club had been paying a private individual to groom the trails with his snowmobile,” said Trails Club President Mary Shedd. “But his snowmobile was old and didn’t have enough power to pull the snow drag or our new larger track-setter.”
The new sled, a Polaris Titan SP 155, was purchased with funding from the Federal Recreational Trail Program, which is administered by the Minnesota DNR. The program provides a three-to-one matching grant, which meant the club still needed to raise $3,000 of the $12,000 cost for the machine.
“Polaris was willing to sell the snowmobile to us at a 20-percent discount,” said Shedd, noting the usual retail price for the sled was $15,000. The club also received funding from Tower’s Gundersen Trust and the Tower Area Fireman’s Relief Association, plus some funds from the DNR grant-in-aid program to help pay their 25-percent match.
Last year, the club bought a used tracker, that produces two sets of classical tracks. The club’s next goal is to raise funds to purchase a more sophisticated tracker that be lifted, so tracks can be customized on the hillier portions of the trail.
Terry Wagoner, whose father Howard developed the trail system for the city, is in charge of grooming the trails, with help from Shane Johnson. Both have taken the new sled out for a test drive, using it to pack down the snow prior to using the track-setter.
“It ran really nicely and is going to work out great,” said Wagoner. Both men said they are looking forward to having a reliable sled for use out on the trails, and not having to worry about getting stranded in the woods.
The snowmobile will be stored at the DNR Regional Office in Tower in the winter, and then will be stored indoors in city storage the rest of the year.
The club’s next project is replacing the lighting along the beginner’s trail that is lit for night use. Some of the lights are no longer working and are in need of repair or replacements. All will eventually be replaced with more energy-efficient LED bulbs. So far, the club has raised $2,000 of the approximately $4,000 cost for the project. Shedd said they may decide to do the project in phases, replacing some of the bulbs this year.
The trails club has also printed new brochures that feature a map of the trails. The brochures are available at the trailhead.
Last year the club received about $2,500 in DNR funding. Sixty-percent of that revenue is dedicated to grooming costs, and the rest can be used for other trail-related expenses.
The trails are normally groomed after each significant snow. The club’s budget is not large enough to set a weekly grooming schedule, said Shedd.
The trails have been getting more use over the past few years, and the trails club is hoping the interest in cross country skiing will continue to grow.
Shedd said the club is a little concerned over damage from motorized use (ATV) from the new Prospectors Trail, which runs adjacent to the trail that starts at the north parking area.
The DNR has posted signs that the trail is closed to motorized use. The Prospectors Trail officially closes for the season on Nov. 1, and then reopens to traffic in the spring.
“We want to make sure people understand the trail is closed to ATVs after Nov. 1,” Shedd said. “It can cost hundreds of dollars to regroom the trail for cross-country skiing if the trail is damaged by ATV traffic.”
Tower’s ski trails
The City of Tower/Howard Wagoner Ski Trails provide 12km of beginner to intermediate trails that wind through quiet and beautiful pine, mixed woods, and bog forests.The system, groomed for classical skiing, includes a lighted loop for night skiing. The trails are groomed and maintained by volunteers and with funding from the MN DNR Cross-Country Ski Grant-in-Aid Program. The Great Minnesota Ski Pass is required to ski and can be purchased online or locally at Vermilion Fuel and Food or the Y Store. You can also support the trails by joining the Wagoner Trails Club. Annual dues are $5/individual or $10/family.
The trails are just south of Tower and can be accessed from two separate parking areas. The north parking lot is located by the new Lamppa Manufacturing building. The South (main) parking is 1.5 mile south on Hwy 135 on the west side of the road (trails are on both sides of the highway).