Supervisors discuss interest in biking trails, approve special ATV/UTV benefit ride request, hear from Sheriff regarding calls at State Forest

by Joe Moses

The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors met in regular session Monday, June 13 to address an agenda of items including discussion of bike trails and the consideration of approving an application for a special event ATV/UTV ride. The meeting was called to order with Board Chairperson Larry Schellhammer and Supervisor Mark Reiser in attendance at the Supervisors’ Boardroom in the Courthouse and with Supervisor Dan Byrnes participating in the meeting via Zoom web-conferencing.

The meeting moved into Public Comment, with Executive Director Val Reinke with Allamakee County Economic Development (ACED) discussing the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) pre-ride that took place Saturday, June 11 along the Allamakee County portion of the RAGBRAI route to be traveled as part of that event Saturday, July 30 including Postville, Waukon and Lansing. Reinke noted the planning and work done by Paula Enyart and Melissa Collum in Postville, that WW Homestead Dairy in Waukon hosted the pre-ride participants at that stop with Waukon City Clerk Sarah Snitker and Becky Decker of BD Productions being present. Reinke added the pre-ride concluded at Lansing with the participants being greeted at the finish line by a group of community members.

Reinke noted that a childcare webinar for businesses would be taking place the morning of Tuesday, June 14 and that Iowa Economic Development will be hosting a nuisance property discussion and meeting in Sumner with city clerks and council members being encouraged to attend. Reinke noted that an announcement will take place at the Plaza in Lansing Wednesday, June 15 at 5 p.m. with Lansing’s RAGBRAI Forum to start at 6 p.m. at Kee High School. Reinke also discussed the Big Four Fair taking place in Postville this weekend with the Big Four Fair Parade to start at 7 p.m. Friday, June 17 among other events scheduled that weekend at the fairgrounds for this 4-H oriented event.

Waukon City Council member Steve Wiedner addressed the next agenda item relating to discussion of bike trails. Wiedner discussed past interest in developing bike trails along the railroad line connecting communities including Waterville, Waukon Junction, Marquette and Harpers Ferry. Wiedner said there is a lot of interest in this project and that he and Reinke will be participants in a committee relating to this project.

Schellhammer noted that he is supportive of the project and discussed his past involvement on a similar committee and briefly discussed grant funding that will need to be identified and pursued. Reinke advised that Allamakee County GIS Coordinator Jon Luchsinger has mapped out a potential trail route with Allamakee County Conservation Director Jim Janett adding that the impact of trails such as this is phenomenal with willing landowners being necessary for the project to be realized. Schellhammer was in agreement that the support of landowners is necessary in addition to interest from the public.

Wiedner noted that he will be seeking volunteers to be part of this committee with several individuals having expressed interest,  and he further discussed the impact of the project in attracting young people to the county. Janett, Wiedner and the Supervisors discussed potential routes for this trail system. No official action was taken relating to this discussion matter.

The meeting moved into the consideration of approving an application for a special event ATV/UTV ride to take place June 25. At the June 6 Supervisors meeting, event details were discussed relating to the Shawn Moody Benefit ATV/UTV Ride with Beau Bennett of the Allamakee County ATV/UTV Club providing an overview of the permitting process and the proposed route with the Moody Family Farm being a destination.

At the June 13 meeting, Bennett discussed recent communications with various organizations and individuals necessary in the planning of this event, including Forester Bruce Blair of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Jane Regan of Upper Iowa Insurance Services, among others. Bennett provided an overview of the proposed ATV/UTV route for this event to include White Pine Road, State Forest Road, Donahue Road, Old Junction Drive, Old Mission Drive and potentially crossing a private property, among some additional roads traveled before reaching the Moody Family Farm. Bennett advised that he will speak with campers the day prior to the event at a Yellow River State Forest campsite to notify them of the approximate 20 minutes of ATV/UTV travel near that site June 25.

During discussion with the Supervisors, the removal of Fire Tower Road from the route was discussed as a change from the route previously reviewed at the June 6 meeting. Allamakee County Engineer Brian Ridenour noted that he has spoken with Blair with the DNR not objecting to this special event.

Ridenour advised that a certificate of insurance has been provided and that he recommends approval of the route.

Bennett added that he is encouraging locals to ride their machines to the event, if possible, to lower the number of trailers. The application for the special event ATV/UTV ride was approved with Schellhammer and Reiser both voting to approve. Byrnes noted he could not vote due to his attendance via Zoom while adding that he is supportive of this event.

Under Department Head Updates, Allamakee County Sheriff Clark Mellick reported that the Sheriff’s Department has been preparing for the busy summer season also noting that river levels have been decreasing with more boat traffic to be expected. He said that several special events will be coming up with the Sheriff’s Department assisting with traffic control.

Mellick noted that the next electricity billing should reflect savings as a result of the solar array going live at the Public Safety Center. He discussed other solar array matters including the maintenance of the fence surrounding the array and mowing the lawn within that area, not weekly but periodically.

Mellick advised that with the DNR’s decision to eliminate the full-time ranger position in Yellow River State Forest, the Sheriff’s Department has been taking a lot of calls relating to this area with deputies being sent in response. He discussed Yellow River State Forest calls including a domestic dispute and family member notifications. Mellick advised that deputies are not allowed access to the list of camper locations, which has been time consuming and has presented difficulty in finding campers to notify them of sick, injured or near-death family members.

Mellick noted that call logs are used in keeping track of these responses within Yellow River State Forest. Schellhammer indicated that he is supportive of the Sheriff’s Department seeking reimbursement from the DNR relating to these responses, advising that the County needs to be proactive with this potentially becoming a bigger issue down the line.

Janett indicated that County Conservation has been busy with several contracts and projects. He advised that the Red Bud Canoe Access on the Upper Iowa River below the Ellingson Bridge is approximately three-fourths complete. Janett also discussed ongoing maintenance and that the Driftless Area Education and Visitors Center in Lansing has been busy with 150 individuals visiting the center last weekend.

Allamakee County Zoning Administrator Stephanie Runkle noted that she did not have an update and Allamakee County Emergency Management Coordinator Corey Snitker discussed that he and Head of Courthouse Maintenance John Roe are working on the emergency/storm shelter area within the courthouse. Snitker added that a window is being filled in with bricks as part of this shelter area conversion with a steel plate to be added to cover a door.

Snitker also discussed the weather forecast and the Canadian Pacific train derailment that took place June 1 near Lansing with a small amount of coal spilled into the Mississippi River. He noted the clean-up process is close to being complete.

Ridenour noted that the Livingood Bridge will be officially opened this week. He advised that river levels are falling and that Army Road has been reopened. Ridenour and Schellhammer discussed that a lot of road rock is being put down on secondary roads within the county.

Allamakee County Auditor Denise Beyer reported that the Supervisors will convene as the Board of Canvassers June 14 at 9 a.m. to canvass the results of the June 7 Primary Election.

Prior to adjournment, Mellick introduced Samson Elledge of Monona, a Hawkeye Community College student enrolled in the Police Science program. Mellick noted that Elledge is completing an internship with the Allamakee County Sheriff’s Department.