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Paynesville Press - Dec. 11, 2002

Just add snow

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

Members of the Koronis Hills Snowmobile Club are waiting for the season's first good snow so they can try out a new section of snowmobile trail they've been making since October.

A volunteer group of snowmobile club members worked at least 80 hours to get the eight-mile trail section that runs along the old railroad bed between Paynesville and Roscoe ready for sleds. A new preschool at the Paynesville Lutheran Church gives youngsters a head start on kindergarten skills with a curriculum that integrates the Bible in all aspects of learning.

Members of the Koronis Hills Snowmobile Club - photo by Bonnie Jo Hanson The property is now owned by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). According to Ron Thompson, club president, the DNR wanted the trail to be developed as a joint effort between the cities of Paynesville and Richmond, but discussions never panned out. The club approached the DNR about taking on the project and got approval in October. "We jumped on it then," said Thompson, who added that the trail needed to be cleared, widened to at least 10 feet, and two bridges had to be improved before it was safe for snowmobiling.

The Koronis Hills Snowmobile Club improved the bridge shown, as well as another one, while getting the new trail section ready for snowmobiling. Pictured from left: Ron Thompson, club president; Mike Kotschevar, board member; Larry Mathison, board member; Dustin Thompson; and Dick Putzke, board member and trail coordinator.

Funding for the new trail section came in part from the city of Paynesville. The club receives $2,500 each year from the city, but it needed an extra $9,000 to get the new section up and running. The city donated $4,500 toward the trail and recommended the club approach the township for the balance, since the trail also goes through Paynesville Township. The club is still waiting for word from the township, said Thompson.

The Koronis Hills Snowmobile Club maintains approximately 35 miles of snowmobile trails throughout the area. Eventually, the club would like to link up with the Glacial Ridge Trail that runs from New London to Willmar.

While most of the state's trails are owned by the DNR, almost all of the trails in Stearns County are maintained by nonprofit organizations, such as the Koronis Hills Snowmobile Club, who do the work because they love to snowmobile, said Thompson. There are 15 clubs in Stearns County and most of these clubs, including the local club, own their own grooming equipment.

Clubs in Stearns County depend heavily on volunteers to work on projects and conduct fund-raisers and depend on financial reimbursement from the county to cover some of their costs.

As well as maintaining trails, the club sponsors DNR-required snowmobile safety courses for new snowmobilers. This training is now required for riders born since 1976.

The Koronis Hills Snowmobile Club has 65 members, and its purpose is to promote responsible snowmobiling through education and providing safe alternatives to road-ditch riding, said Thompson. "We groom and maintain the trails, and we get permission from farmers and landowners to ride on their property," he said, adding that this has been a difficult year to ready trails because it's been so wet.

New members are always welcome. The club meets on the first Friday of each month at 8 p.m at Northern Lights Dining and Lounge.

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