U of M graduate student hosts discussion at city hall in Crookston

    A University of Minnesota research team is working in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to carry out a project related to Minnesotans’ knowledge about and perceptions of snow control measures along state highways, and a small “invitation-only” event was held Tuesday at Crookston’s City Hall. U of M graduate student, Collin Motschke, and his advisor, Director of the Center for Integrated Natural Resource and Agricultural Management Dean Current, met with city leaders, local law enforcement, and area stakeholders.

    Motschke told the Times that there are a few highway corridors near Crookston with documented blowing and drifting snow problems, according to MnDOT, and, in an effort to address these problems, they wanted to hear from local community members who are familiar with winter road conditions in the area.

    Among those present at Tuesday’s meeting were Crookston School District Transportation and Buildings & Grounds Coordinator Rick Niemela, Public Works Director Pat Kelly, Mayor Wayne Melbye, City Council member Bobby Baird, Fire Chief Tim Froeber, Polk County Sheriff’s Deputy Kyle Olson, Norman County Deputy Sheriff Ben Fall, West Polk County Soil & Water Conservation District Technician Morgan Torkelson, and Northwest Regional Development Transportation Planning Director Troy Schroeder.

    U of M’s Current told Tuesday’s group that they’re not seeing a lot of adoption by landowners when it comes to snow fences and they’re trying to look at local landowner’s attitudes when it comes to snow control, then asking the group how they think they should approach farmers to see why they lean one way or another.

    There were a variety of reasons given around the room why landowners might be hesitant about certain snow control measures such as tree rows that could interfere with machinery and GPS systems, plus the maintenance of the rows costing more time and money.

    Motschke says the MnDOT central office is looking into creating a snow control program with similar recognitions like the Adopt a Highway program, but the group was quick to point out that public recognition “doesn’t pay the bills.”

    Other comments around the room included the area being “spoiled” by MnDOT snow equipment and the quick response to moving snow after a weather event, and how some counties adding center-line rumble strips have helped drivers during low visibility.

    Motschke concluded the meeting saying they will be compiling information from Polk County meetings and will draft a survey for landowners in the area along state highways so they can voice whether or not they would be interested in installing snow fences. The research group also plans to host outreach meetings about snow control and then a follow-up survey will go out to see if attitudes change.