Initial discussion with the Bridgewater Township Planning Commission: can we reclaim an abandoned gravel pit for mountain biking?

Bridgewater Township Planning Commission, March 21 Bridgewater Township Planning Commission, March 21
I made a brief presentation about CROCT to the Bridgewater Township Planning Commission last week. They seemed to like the idea of reclaiming an abandoned gravel pit for a mountain bike park but there was no action item. Here’s the background on the issue:

Back in February, I got an email from Northfielder Jeff Stremcha, a cyclist who’s on the Bridgewater Township Planning Commission:

Hi Griff – hope all is well with you. Fat-tiring the gravel is OK, but I’m starting to get ready for some other riding options! I wanted to drop a quick note to pass along a small bit of info based upon a brief exchange I had with Marty down at the bagel shop. He mentioned that you, he and a couple others are working on forming a mtb club in Nfld. Cool.

When Bridgewater Township was working with SMC on a renewal of their permits for the gravel mining operations at the Dundas Wash Plant, Terry Overn, a principle with SMC, mentioned that the Aggregate & Ready Mix Association of MN apparently has some interest, and potentially some level of funding, for doing a gravel mine reclamation project that they could use as a demonstration project with a goal of generating some community goodwill. Terry seemed to think that an off-road bicycle trail project might be a good candidate and mentioned it to me because there are some abandoned mining sites in Bridgewater Township that might provide a suitable location for such a project.

He suggested that someone should contact the Executive Director of the association, Fred Corrigan, at 952-707-1250 to see if there might be merit in further discussions.

I thought that maybe you, or someone in your group, might be interested in calling Fred. Since I had your email, I figured I’d give you the info. If someone does call, I’d suggest mentioning that Terry suggested it to us. I would presume that SMC is a significant member of the association.

I think that’s about all I know but I can try to clarify if you have questions. Take care – think spring!

I replied to Jeff:

Hey Jeff, good to hear from you… and that you’re getting the itch for something more than gravel!

Our mountain bike club got rolling last Sunday night: CROCT (Cannon River Offroad Cycling & Trails) and we have the beginnings of a website up at http://croct.org/ You probably know some of the people at that first meeting. We’ve had a few more join us since then.

As for gravel pit reclamation, Bruce Anderson and I had a conversation about it with Bridgewater Township Board supervisor Kathleen Doran-Norton about 10 days ago. How’s that for coincidence?

She not only knows of several abandoned mines but in some cases, knows the private land owners between them and thinks easements are possible that would allow an offroad bike trail between them.

So your timing couldn’t be better. We have a private web-based project planning service we’re using to organize the club and plan all our tasks, so I’ll copy/paste your email there so we can figure out who does what next. Rest assured, one of us will contact Fred Corrigan and maybe Terry Overn, too.

And if you’re interested in getting involved with the organizational stage of the club, let me know.

Of course, this could very likely involved the Rice County parks people since there could be a way of connecting a mtb trail to one or more of the abandoned gravel mines.

I’ll email Kathleen Doran-Norton about this today, with a CC to Bruce Anderson.

Shortly thereafter, I had a long phone chat with Fred Corrigan,  Exec Director of the Aggregate & Ready Mix Association of MN. He explained that Rice County collects an aggregate tax and 15% of those proceeds goes into a special fund for gravel pit reclamation. In 2011, this amounted to $4,500.  One to-do: to find out from the County what their current balance is and how to apply for it.  

The good news: the DNR and Le Sueur County tried to create a 20 acre mountain bike park with a pump track using these and other funds a couple years ago but the private property owner decided to sell.  

News article Sept 2010: Le Sueur County eyes reclaim of old pits

However, state statute has limited the use of reclamation funds for public land. Last year changes were made to the statute, enabling reclamation funds to be applied to abandoned pits on private property. Pettis said with the DNR’s help, reclaiming some of the pits in the county becomes more feasible.

So we might be able to get DNR involvement in a similar attempt in Bridgewater Twshp, especially if the abandoned pit is adjacent to the DNR’s Mill Towns Trail which will soon be extended between Faribault and Dundas along a rail line.  (I blogged the details about this here: http://locallygrownnorthfield.org/post/29507 )

(Some links: Southern Minnesota Construction (SMC) operates the Dundas Wash Plant; the MN DNR has a page on mine reclamation and a PDF handbook titled A Handbook for Reclaiming Sand and Gravel Pits in Minnesota.)

I later got this followup email from Fred Corrigan:

Good to talk to you today about the possibility of reclaiming currently unreclaimed aggregate pits into an mountain bike facility in Bridgewater Township in Rice County.

I have attached some information about the aggregate tax that is collected by some counties and the possible use of a portion of those funds for the purpose of reclaiming abandoned and unreclaimed aggregate pits.

I understand that you have a meeting of your group tonight and will get back to me after that meeting. I also understand that you will attempt to determine the ownership (public or private) of these potential properties and talk to the county about available funding for this kind of recreation project from the aggregate tax or other county funding. We also discussed the DNR’s interest in projects like this.

I look forward to continuing this discussion. I have copied officials of SMC who have been involved in these projects and are actively involved in the Aggregate & Ready Mix Association of MN (ARM).