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North Liberty to consider compromise instead of eliminating snowmobile routes

Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 10:51 PM CDT
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NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa (KCRG) - Snowmobile trails are at risk of being eliminated throughout North Liberty.

The North Liberty City Council voted to approve the first reading of an ordinance to eliminate all trails within city limits at its September 28 meeting. Councilmembers listened to concerns from snowmobile riders during the public hearing for the ordinance’s second reading during the meeting on Tuesday.

The council then unanimously voted to table the ordinance, instead directing the city administrator to work with the Iowa Snowdrifters Club, a non-profit that marks and maintains around 200 miles of snowmobile trails throughout Linn and Johnson County, on a possible compromise.

City staff cited the growing population and infrastructure in North Liberty as the reason behind the proposed restrictions.

“We just have so much more infrastructure, and it’s harder and harder to accommodate snowmobiles here in North Liberty. Iowa City, Coralville, our neighbors don’t have those, allow snowmobiles in town,” Nick Bergus, communications director for the city of North Liberty, said.

The ordinance to ban snowmobiling on routes in the city comes after a snowmobiling accident last season, according to the council agenda.

”Last winter we had a $20,000 accident from a snowmobiler coming through town,” Bergus said. “Of course they’re not all, a lot of folks are being as careful as they can, but we’re just trying to take another look at that.”

The agenda states that the city’s insurance company paid the damages. As the city continues to develop more landscaping, light poles, and electrical boxes are being installed, officials believe there is more potential for accidents and damage to occur.

Chuck Kikuts, president of the Iowa Snowdrifters Club, addressed the North Liberty City Council on Tuesday, along with other members, fighting to keep at least some of their trails. Kikuts said the trails in North Liberty are important for riders.

”It’s one giant loop, if you can imagine that. What we see with North Liberty is it connects the bottom of the loop,” Kikuts said. “The second trail comes straight into town and takes us to the gas station, we also go by a few of our sponsor restaurants, bar-restaurants.”

Kikuts and other members also pointed to the revenue their sport brings to the city, even year-round.

”We just bought a $5,000 mower. Guess where we bought it from? A business in North Liberty,” Kikuts said.

Members of the Snowdrifters were glad to see the ordinance tabled, but said that this is a time-sensitive decision. They typically start marking trails for the season in mid-October, and can’t mark trails after the ground freezes.

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