Aurora snowmobile bridge shy on funds

Florence County seeking more help from state for $265,000 project

FLORENCE, Wis. — Florence County will need further state funding before it can replace the snowmobile trail bridge over the Little Popple River.

Even the low bid of $265,000 from F.A. Industrial Services of Iron River, Mich., was significantly more than the $204,000 grant the county received from the Department of Natural Resources’ Snowmobile Recreation Council in 2016.

So Florence County will have someone at Tuesday’s Snowmobile Recreation Council meeting in Weston, Wis., to ask they consider making up the difference, Forestry and Parks Administrator Patrick Smith said.

Smith told the county board Tuesday the other two bids were $319,000 and $580,000, adding it wasn’t clear why the other bids were so much higher. He speculated materials might have become more expensive.

The county wants to put a longer steel and wood bridge on trail corridor 6, just north of Highway N west of Aurora, because the current 1970s-built structure has sharp corners that are difficult for larger trail grooming machines to navigate. Smith said the equipment regularly hits the bridge, causing a growing amount of damage over the decades.

The new bridge would be about 90 feet, Smith said, with a more gradual turn at each end.

Florence County managed to get the grant extended after property issues forced the work to be postponed, but the DNR wants the project done by June 2020, Smith said.

He for now believes the bridge can be completed by that deadline if the state authorizes the additional funds.

The county board Tuesday approved the project bid contingent on the state making up the difference.

The board Tuesday also designated highway access routes for all-terrain and utility-terrain vehicles in the county.

Those routes where ATV/UTV use is allowed include: County Trunk B from Fisher Lake Parkway to County Trunk N; County Trunk C from Hall’s Creek Dam Road to Sleeter Road; County Trunk D from Meadowood Hills Drive to State Highway 101; County Trunk Highway N from County Trunk Highway B to the intersection at Aurora Liquor and C&R Bar, and a 538-foot segment south of the Pine River bridge where the trail runs into the ditch; and County Trunk NN from County Trunk N to the railroad grade.

In other business, the board:

— Submitted a letter to DNR officials regarding the draft Northeast Sands Regional Master Plan, raising numerous concerns, including opposing proposals to create any new state natural areas because they would prevent sustainable timber harvesting. The DNR also should not purchase further lands in the Florence County, as that would take more lands from forest management.

In addition, county officials spoke against potentially removing the Pine River dam, although Smith said that already has been dropped from the plan.

The county demanded to meet with the DNR before the plan is finalized, saying they were promised a place at the table but left out of the process until being presented with the draft.

“Florence County will not sit back and watch the lands within the county be mismanaged by the DNR,” the county’s letter stated.

— Honored the Pemenee Farm in Aurora, established by the VanPembrook family, and the Lindow family farm in the town of Commonwealth for recently marking their centennials.

Betsy Bloom can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 40, or bbloom@ironmountaindailynews.com.