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Feb 04

Sharing the Trails

Posted on February 4, 2021 at 11:17 AM by Jessica Abrahams

Author: Mary Jo Knudson, Recreation Supervisor

Owatonna Parks and Trails have seen a HUGE jump in users these days, parking lots are full and trails are busy.  We know nothing beats a sunny, snowy, fresh day outside!  We see people with fat tire bikes, snow shoes and cross country skis, along with hikers, joggers and dog walkers enjoying over 17 miles of trails. 

Whether you’re a new trail user or have been using them for years, it’s important to know how to share so everyone has a great experience!  Let’s start with a quick guide to the best places to go to enjoy winter recreation!

So, you’re at a park that offers a lot of different opportunities, now where do you go?  The Park Crew works hard clearing and grooming as they are able.  We try to avoid sign pollution in our park system, yet try to guide patrons the best we can.  Apart from signs, learning to read the snow is a great way to know if you’re ‘on the right path’.

Take a look at the pictures in this article to get a good feel of what groomed trails look like.  Groomed ski trails have a distinct track for two skis and should only be used for skiing.  Groomed fat tire bike trails are narrow.  Gravel, woodchip and rustic trails are groomed when possible if they are wide enough for our groomer to get through.  When there are trails where a groomer cannot get to, snowshoes are a great way to help clear the way for hikers!  Paved trails throughout the system are broomed off after each snowfall for ease of use.  On those warm days, with more slushy conditions, the paved trails offer your best bet and keep other trails in good shape.

As always, winter, spring, summer or fall; owners must have dogs on a leash and clean up any waste.  Pet waste stations and garbage cans are provided throughout for owners.

If you choose a different winter adventure, ice fishing is a great way to spend a day at Lake Kohlmier or Lake Chase!  When you go, look out for Thin Ice signs (Kohlmier has an aeration system) and check the ice in general.  The mantra “ice is never 100% safe” should always be in the back of your mind.  Ice depths can vary greatly within just a few feet. 

Here are the Minnesota DNR minimum guidelines for new, clear ice.

4” – ice fishing or other activities, on foot
5”-7” – snowmobile or ATV
8”-12” – car or small pickup
12”-15” – medium truck

White ice or ‘snow ice’ is only about half as strong as new clear ice.  Double the above thickness guidelines when traveling on white ice.  Many factors other than thickness can cause ice to be unsafe, and the DNR advises your safety is your responsibility.  Check ice thickness at least every 150 feet.

However you choose to get outdoors this winter, we hope you get a chance to enjoy the beauty in Owatonna’s snow covered parks and trails!