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County Board struggles to find solution for Onion River Road winter maintenance

On Nov. 17 Cook County Commissioners agreed with members of the Lutsen-Tofte Tourism Association – the county, not LTTA, should plow and maintain the Onion River Road. At the county board’s Dec.15 meeting, however, the board reversed its position and now LTTA is back on the hook for winter maintenance, but maybe not for long as the county tries to come up with a permanent solution.

It has been in the best interests of LTTA to actively promote the road for tourism and area skiing. But because the road belongs to the Forest Service, its public – and USFS has not plowed or serviced their roads in the winter for years.

The arrangement was, and for the time being – is, LTTA hires a private contractor to plow the popular cross country ski access road. They are also responsible for sanding and winging of the road.

The county is working on putting a compromise plan together by Dec. 22. The hope is the county will create a subordinate service district for the road. It would contract out the plowing; the highway department would take over winging and sanding and bill everything to LTTA and property owners along the road. The compromise would take LTTA out of the road maintenance business; they would still bear at least part of the cost, but none of the liability – which commissioners hope the Forest Service will take over.