By Jordan Gerard
Editor, The Caledonia Argus
After a turbulent meeting in April, the fate of the proposed Off-Highway Vehicle trail in Houston hangs in the balance.
One document that has not been examined in this series yet is “Design and Layout of Houston OHV Trail” by U.S. Forest Service Trails Unlimited LLC, the author is Jerry D. Barrow, a retired civil engineer with 32 years of experience with the forest service, six years in private practice and 30 years in trails. He has degrees in civil engineering and forestry, the document sites.
In the document submitted Oct. 25, 2015 and revised March 31, 2016, Barrow notes several concerns about the area of land, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service soil types, which notes sandy soils and silty clay loam soils, as “weak soils for frequent traffic.” This has been a key concern if the trail is built in South Park.
Photos shared with the Argus from resident Russ Williams shows what happens when “any amount of work is done on Grant Street,” especially if sand is being moved and it rains. The photos are from 2019 and that was the year of the new water pump house, located next to South Park.
With the sandy soils, Barrow gave several recommendations, techniques and equipment types in order to harden trail treads, reduce erosion and control water. He also states the trail construction is “going to require much greater skilled equipment operators with expertise,” and that there will be a “higher construction cost.”
In the project summary document, it states, “Members of the OHV clubs will perform trail construction and ongoing maintenance...” but Barrow states trail maintenance should be done by highly trained individuals with appropriate and properly maintained trail equipment well-suited to the job.
It is not clear yet who will be building and maintaining the trails, as that part of the process has not been discussed by the OHV Advisory Committee. Finally, Barrow states the trail can be successfully constructed with specialized engineering considerations and diligent maintenance and management.
In addition, the city has to assure the Houston OHV Park Initiative will be maintained for a period of no less than 20 years. A Minnesota Department of Natural Resources interdisciplinary team was requested by DNR Parks and Trails to do a “coarse filter” review of the area, essentially a proactive approach. That was done by the DNR Central Regional Management Team that is “always involved in GIA [Grant-In-Aid] reviews, but are more familiar with GIA processes in which they are consulted on environmental factors bearing on a specific proposed trail alignment rather than a general area.”
A public hearing was held July 9, 2012, in which residents and other people expressed their opposition, favor or proposed questions. A summary can be found online at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/input/mgmtplans/ohv/plans/houston-ohv-trail.html.
Written comments were also welcomed before Oct. 19, 2013, as noted in the public notice section of the Houston Banner on Sept. 19, 2013.
The next council meeting is May 10, at 6 p.m. at the community center.
This is the fourth in a series of articles exploring the proposed OHV trail in Houston.