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County seeks state aid to assist with recreational trail cleanup

Cook County Commissioners agreed to reach out to the Capitol and State Legislature to see if funding can be provided to help remove heavy snow and fallen or sagging trees on the vast network of recreation trails in the county.

During a board meeting Tuesday, Commissioner Ginny Storlie said she has been contacted by members of local snowmobiling and outdoor recreation clubs expressing their concern over the status of the local trail systems. Affected trails include options for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and dog mushing.

Heavy snowfall in December plagued the trails with an abundance of sagging or fallen trees, making many of the trails nearly impossible to use. Crews, both paid and volunteers, have been working to clear the trails for recreational use. Thus far, those efforts have been slow to make progress.

The commissioners agreed it would be worthwhile to at the very least inquire from the Capitol if funding can be provided to assist with the trail cleanup process on a county-wide level. Commissioner Garry Gamble said Governor Mark Dayton and legislators are often receptive to providing short-term financial aid to counties, and the request to help open trails in Cook County would seem to fall under that category.

Cook County Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers said the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources might be another option for supplemental funding. The county has reached out to local DNR staff to inquire about funding possibilities.

Commissioners hope any answer on funding from the DNR or legislature should be announced soon.