by Jim Boyle
The non-profit organization that cares for 233 miles of snowmobile trails in Sherburne County has lost two of its most valuable tools.
The Sherburne County Trail Association’s pole shed, located in the 17100 block of 262nd Avenue in Orrock Township, burned March 17, claiming two groomers including a 2011 John Deere that was purchased just before Christmas by the organization.
That machine cost $180,000. The other, a 2005 Tucker Sno Cat trail groomer, is believed to be worth $140,000. A third groomer, which was scheduled to be returned to the shed on the day of the fire, was spared.
“We had some pretty teary-eyed members,” said Mike Lanegran, the president of the trail association. “My wife was one of them. The pictures just don’t do it justice.”
Lanegran says what was lost is something the trail association has built up over the last 35 to 40 years.
The Sherburne County Trail Association, which has board members from three snowmobiling clubs within the county, owns the land where the trail shed was located.
The building, which has been expanded over the years to meet the group’s growing needs, has been paid for, too, Lanegran said.
The once-shiny new 7330 John Deere with Soucy tracks and blade, that was shown off on group’s Facebook page in a December 2010 post, has not been paid for yet.
As the group awaits word as to the cause of the fire, it is assembling a list of its losses from its shop, classroom area and storage.
“We will rebuild,” Lanegran told the Star News.
The Sherburne County Trail Association has five representatives from each of three snowmobiling clubs, including the River City Riders out of Elk River, the Elk Lake Easy Riders and the Big Lake Sno-Cruisers.
Fire took 35,000 gallons to put out
The Zimmerman/Livonia Fire Department with the help of mutual aid put between 35,000 and 40,000 gallons of water on the St. Patrick’s Day fire.
The department was dispatched to the fire at 11:58 a.m. on Thursday, March 17. The building was fully involved with fire with the exception of the classroom area, according to Chief Ryan Maloney.
There were reports of two small explosions in the area about an hour before a neighbor saw smoke and called 911 to report the fire.
By the time the fire department arrived, nearly half of the roof was already collapsing, Lanegran said.
The Zimmerman/Livonia Fire Department was assisted by the Big Lake Fire Department, Elk River Fire Department and the Northeastern Sherburne County Fire Department.
No one was present in the building at the time of the fire and the gate to the property had been closed and locked prior to the fire starting.
The fire remains under investigation. Anyone with information is encouraged to call the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office.