Cannon Valley Trail numbers up slightlyWhen flood damage caused a portion of the Cannon Valley Trail to close to all traffic for about six weeks earlier this summer, trail manager Scott Roepke said he was nervous.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
When flood damage caused a portion of the Cannon Valley Trail to close to all traffic for about six weeks earlier this summer, trail manager Scott Roepke said he was nervous.
“I was extremely worried,” he said. “As far as paying for damage, we would need revenue.”
But after looking at this season’s revenue late last month, all that worry was washed away. Despite the closure, sales of season and daily passes — which are needed to bike or use any wheeled device on the trail — are actually up, Roepke said.
“Our revenue numbers were a little better than last year,” he said.
For the period from April 1 to late August, the trail sold 2,210 season passes and 7,749 daily passes. Those numbers are just slightly higher than 2011, when 2,107 season passes and 7,272 daily passes were sold in a similar period.
That equates to revenue of about $81,300 for 2012, slightly higher than 2011’s $78,250.
What’s more, this year’s numbers are even on par with the last three to four years’ averages, Roepke said.
“We’re very surprised,” Roepke said.
The trail closed in late June when storms bringing inches of rain and strong winds caused washouts and landslides, destroyed a bridge and spread debris along the trail.
Cleanup and repairs on the Cannon Falls end of the trail were less extensive and that portion of the trail was able to open about a week after the storm, Roepke said.
“Our goal was to get part of the trail open, not only for a place for people to recreate, but also for the revenue,” Roepke said.
But the trail from Welch to Red Wing remained barricaded until late July.
So how did the trail manage to keep its revenue steady even though the trail was closed? Roepke suspects that the weather and the public’s curiosity helped to boost pass sales. An early, warm spring had more people out on the trail during April and May than usual, Roepke said.
“People were out and about enjoying the weather,” he said.
After the trail reopened, he said people may have been curious to see the damage and repairs along the trail.
“Those two factors kept those wheel passes about the same,” Roepke said.
Trail staff originally estimated damage to be close to $200,000. But Roepke said Tuesday that so far the trail has received bills of about $50,000. He now expects total damages to be between $80,000 and $100,000.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has committed to covering 75 percent of the repair costs. In addition, Minnesota Legislature passed a $180 million relief package in a special session last month for communities damaged by summer storms. Still, Roepke said he hadn’t yet heard how much of the trail’s damages may be covered in that.
“I have not heard where that stands,” he said.
For now, Roepke said the trail is gearing up for the fall season. And even though this summer’s revenue topped last year’s, he doesn’t expect the fall numbers to do the same.
“They’re predicting that the fall colors won’t be very spectacular,” Roepke said, adding that lackluster scenery may keep people from flocking to the trail. “Last year it was the opposite where the colors were extraordinary.”
“But we’re trying to look forward to next year,” Roepke said. “And hopefully no floods.”