BY DENISE MARTIN When the Hay Days Swap Meet and Grass Drag Races take place in September, there will not be a repeat of...

BY DENISE MARTIN

When the Hay Days Swap Meet and Grass Drag Races take place in September, there will not be a repeat of last fall’s fiasco. Part of the learning curve, since Hay Days first opened at its new site near Almelund, MInnesota last fall, involved Chisago County officials reviewing circumstances that created issues hampering the 2010 festivities.

Sno Barons Snowmobile Club members have met with county officials and progress is being made, according to the county zoning and environmental services director.

Last fall severe road congestion and other issues marred the first day of the event. What’s transpired since then, Mary Darragh Schmitz, Zoning Administrator said, is that the club is revising its vendor registration rules, and clamping down on site access policies. A major glitch during the 2010 Hay Days operations was the last minute influx of swappers and vendors the event organizers hadn’t planned on accommodating. For 2011 on-line, pre event registration will be strictly enforced.

The Sno Barons will develop a restricted “chute” style access to the swap meet area that will come off the west side of the site. This swapper road will control vehicles so they aren’t in public parking towards the main entrance to the east side, Schmitz said.

The snowmobile club is also to increasing available parking by 6,000 spaces. The club leases property to the west of the event site, and Schmitz said the club will provide for parking on those two 40-acre parcels.

Club members are also working with surrounding property owners utilizing a new lower-cost, administrative permit process the County Board has adopted. The zoning department also took applications from anyone who plans to park vehicles for a fee, during this fall’s Hay Days.

There will not be any parking along the shoulders of state Highway 95, and the club will be posting large no-parking signs all along the route. Signage was vastly inadequate last year.

The Sno Barons will also leverage social media and use the internet to update traffic conditions and best parking availability.

The club also will post much bigger directional signage.

On the roads and highways for miles surrounding the Almelund area; traffic movement was congested due to people leaving vehicles on shoulders and in intersections and pedstrians everywhere. Sno Barons reps meet with the county engineer and other officials and were asked to submit a follow-up “plan of action”. At that point, Schmitz explained, there will be a meeting with engineering/public works, law enforcement and MnDOT to bring all parties to the table for a final review.

Sno Barons has also agreed to pay for an additional police officer to assist with traffic control in North Branch.

The Hay Days site access was impacted when an entry driveway collapsed last year, and Sno Barons has agreed to station a truck and gravel on-site. If emergency repairs are required the club can respond immediately.

There is also concern in the zoning department about getting an accurate headcount for the two-day (plus Friday setup) event. The Sno Barons club is researching an electronic system that would keep better track of attendees and monitor exiting and entering populations. The county is working on “greatly improving” attendance count, Schmitz reports.

Chisago County Press

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