OSKALOOSA — In an attempt to put together an ordinance regulating the traffic on the Oskaloosa Recreational Trail surrounding the city of Oskaloosa, the Oskaloosa City Council looked at three proposed ordinances during a work session Monday night after their regular meeting. Joining the council in consideration of the three ordinances were council member-elect Aaron Ver Steeg and Janet VanDerBeek. Council member-elect Wesley Wills attended the regular meeting, but was unable to attend the work session.

The first proposed ordinance is the same one council members had looked at in earlier meetings which would allow golf carts on the trail, but would prohibit other traffic such as motorcycles, automobiles, go carts and other motorized vehicles. The first ordinance would also prohibit equestrians from using the trail. The first ordinance would also require that golf carts would have to be registered with the city.

The second ordinance council members considered would prohibit the use of golf carts entirely as well as equestrians. The second ordinance does not require golf cart registration as they would not be allowed to operate on the trail.

The third ordinance would allow for limited use of golf carts on the trail system. Under the third ordinance draft, carts would be banned from the trail except from the Beacon Road to Lincoln Avenue. That area is in the vicinity of Edmundson Golf Course and Harvest Point Golf Course. Another prohibition in the third ordinance would only allow operation of golf carts during daylight hours.

Although the third ordinance named specific streets, Oskaloosa City Attorney Randy DeGeest said the council could expand the boundaries of where carts could operate.

Another issue brought up by council member Keith Garrett was the easements allowing the trail to cross private property. Several council members had indicated they had been contacted by property owners who said their easements included a clause prohibiting golf carts from the trail.

Oskaloosa Mayor David Dixon said he wanted to focus on the golf cart issue last. Garrett said he was concerned with the easements that allowed the carts to operate on the trail and that the city could lose the access to properties if they restricted the use of the carts on the trail.

DeGeest and Oskaloosa City Manager Don Sandor explained that while the city could not allow carts where the easement specifically prohibited the carts, they could, however, be more restrictive than the easements.

Dixon asked council members for their thoughts about allowing horses on the trail. Council member Jimmy Carter had a question about a petition given to the city by equestrian users of the trail.

He asked if all the people who had signed the petition were people who rode their horses on the trail, or if they were just people who support riding on the trail.

“I’m amazed that many people are riding on the trail,” Carter said.

Carter said he was also concerned about horses riding outside the property that had been eased to the city through the easements. He was concerned if a horse reared or became spooked, and someone was injured by the animal, who was responsible for liability.

Carl Drost, who has helped design and construct the trail around the city, spoke to the council about what the Mahaska Community Recreation Foundation’s intended uses for the trail were when it was constructed.

“First, I really want the council to know we appreciate their cooperation on the trail,” Drost said.

Drost said he knows the trail as well as anybody as he has used the road grader to construct a majority of the trail. He said he knows where the widest part of the trail is as well as the most narrow. He said the trail was constructed so it went through people’s yards and that MCRF is sensitive to the property owner’s wishes.

“We did a lot of research,” Drost said of MCRF. He explained that many cities have a 6-foot wide trail, while others have an 8-foot wide trail. Oskaloosa’s trail is 10-feet wide to accommodate golf carts. He said MCRF had always considered limited use of the trail for the golf carts, mostly for golfers wanting to go between the city’s three courses.

Drost also explained the city had asked for a 30-foot easement for the trail, but that some property owners had opted to give MCRF a 16-foot easement, which allows for 3 feet of clearance on either side of the trail. He also explained that the trail was designed to be “as safe as possible” and the when MCRF went to the Vision Iowa board for a grant to build the trail, the grant was approved in six weeks instead of several months.

However, Drost said horses were never considered to use the trail.

Drost said he knows the council is concerned with trail use.

“I have called Jake (McGee),” Drost said. He said he had called the police chief because of concerns of improper use of the trail. However, McGee has told Drost that with the lack of an ordinance, all the city’s police officers can do is contact the subjects and talk with them, but are unable to file any kind of charges.

Drost said there are three major areas of concern along the trail.

He said out by the new elementary school, some users of the trail are running motorcycles at a high rate of speed along the trail, near the animal shelter on the city’s northeast side, people are using four-wheelers and from Fox Run over to South H Street, the traffic is golf carts. He said a new problem had arisen this summer with the advent of mini-motorcycles being raced along the trail.

“We, Jake and the trail users need an ordinance,” Drost said.

Marie Ware, director of MCRF, explained that the trail was designed to Iowa Department of Transportation standards, but did not include equestrian uses. She explained that to have equestrian uses along the trail, they would need to construct a second tread way, but that with the easement restrictions on some areas of the trail, it would be impossible to construct the second tread way. She said the trails would have to come together to cross the bridges, also.

Ware said the horses tend to operate in specific areas of the trail, mostly where the trail leaves the city limits and enters the county. She explained that MCRF needs to work with the Mahaska County Board of Supervisors to make sure that the city and county have similar ordinances governing the trail.

Carter asked where most of the horse traffic tends to be. Drost said it has been along the northern part of the trail.

All the council members voiced concern about allowing horses on the trail, and decided that equestrian uses of the trail would not be allowed.

Council members were less united on the golf cart issue. Garrett said he liked the third version of the ordinance, which would allow limited use of carts on the trail, while Blomgren liked the original ordinance. She said people in the 4th Ward, which she represents, have told her that they want carts allowed on the trail.

VanDerBeek asked Blomgren if people from 4th Ward were riding carts to the golf course. Ver Steeg then asked if the carts were currently allowed on the streets and how the carts got to the golf courses prior to construction of the trail.

Blomgren asked DeGeest if they changed the language to limited usage of the trail, if the council would have to start over in the reading process. DeGeest said they would. Garrett then asked if the first ordinance was dead after its first two readings. DeGeest said that ordinance currently was tabled, but was still viable.

After more discussion on whether the council could further limit the usage of the trail, Dixon said he wanted an informal vote to see where council members stood.

Council members Mike Stout, Eric Palmer, Carter and David Krutzfeldt along with Ver Steeg and VanDerBeek, expressed they were in favor of banning golf carts from the trail.

“One of the things I haven’t seen is support from the community for golf carts on the trail,” Carter said.

Herald Assistant Editor Eric Coop can be reached by email at coop@oskyherald.com

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