Long winter wears out its welcome

by Joni Astrup

Associate editor

Spring’s slow arrival is affecting everything from golf to the debut of Zimmerman’s new track.

Members of the Elk River boys baseball team are waiting for snow to leave their field.
Elk River ballplayers (from left) Sam Wirtz, Porter Morrell, Terry Hadden, Tim Sanford and Brady Givens were tossing snowballs, not baseballs, at Hales Field in Elk River on Wednesday. Photo by Bruce Strand

Zimmerman Middle-High School Activities Director Jaime Hilyar said they hoped to be on the school’s new nine-lane track by now, but this week it was still buried under close to two feet of snow.

The Thunder is scheduled to host their first track meet April 9. “It’s going to be interesting to say the least,” Hilyar said. One person even suggested clearing the track with a snowblower, but Hilyar nixed that idea.

He told him: ‘You stay away from the track with any type of sharp objects. We have a brand new track.’

Hilyar said it’s likely the track meet will have to be pushed back. Other activities are also being affected by the late spring, he said.

Of course, across the school district all the baseball, softball, golf, tennis, track and lacrosse teams are waiting patiently for their playing fields to emerge from thick snow cover, practicing mostly indoors for the time being.

At the city-owned Pinewood Golf Course in Elk River, what a difference a year makes.

The course opened on March 15 last year, but Pinewood Superintendent Paul Anderson’s best guess is it will be April 15 before it opens this year.

Pinewood Golf Course is covered in snow. It was open for golfing this time last year.
Pinewood Golf Course is covered in snow. It was open for golfing this time last year.

“It completely depends on Mother Nature,” Anderson said. “Not only do we have lots of snow, there is also several feet of frost in the ground this time of the season.”

Pinewood typically opens around April 1 and he’s anxious to see green grass and golfers.

Things are also running one to two weeks behind at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Zimmerman, where cold temperatures and snow and ice are evidence of a delay in the onset of spring, according to Visitor Services Manager Betsy Beneke.

There is some activity around the refuge, however.

Beneke said both bald eagles and great horned owls are nesting. There are 10 or 11 bald eagle nests that appear to be active so far on the refuge.

The St. Francis River, which runs through the refuge, was opening up this past week, Beneke said. A few pairs of trumpeter swans have returned. Some sandhill cranes are also back and Beneke looks for more to arrive as snow melts and the marshes open up more.

Other species of birds are migrating through and more are expected as the ice leaves the river.

“Perhaps the most exciting ‘spring occurrence’ is that the pasque flowers are starting to poke through the soil on south-facing slopes,” Beneke said. “With another week of sun and warm temperatures, they’ll be blooming.”

Sherburne County Public Works Director John Menter said everybody is tired of winter.

“It was a very busy winter. We had a lot of snow plow events,” he said. “… Everybody is glad to see winter, hopefully, finally ending.”