The Rushford Economic Development Authority (EDA) heard plans about a potential ATV trail at its meeting on Wednesday, April 12.

Verne Bunke appeared before the board with Alan Kirchhof, president of the Bluff Country ATV Club and on the board of directors for ATVAM (the All Terrain Vehicle Association of Minnesota).

The group recently filled out a micro-grant application with the EDA and came in to talk with the board about its plans.

“We understand the uniqueness of our application, because the Bluff Country ATV group isn’t an actual business,” Bunke said. “But, everything the club is trying to do is focused on having an economic impact on the town.”

What the Bluff Country ATV group is trying to do, in conjunction with ATVAM and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MnDNR), is to build an ATV trail in the Rushford Peterson Valley.

They’re tentatively calling it the Bluff Tracks Rim Trail. The group has done its research on the potential impact a trail like this would bring to southeast Minnesota.

“This will bring traffic to town,” Bunke said. “We know through research that every time these folks come to town, they spend an average of $250 when they go on an ATV trip. If we can get 100 ATV’ers, in on a weekend, that’s going to have an impact.”

Kirchhof said the reason the group applied for the grant is to get a jump-start on communication efforts to bring landowners and business owners together to talk about the advantages of a project like this and get some input into the project.

“It’ll be about a 37- to 40-mile winding trail system that’ll look like the shape of a football with Peterson on one end and Rushford on the other,” Kirchhof explained.

“Studies have shown that for trail systems like this, people will spend from 1 to 3 days in the area and spend, on average, $250 per person a day.”

EDA vice-president Brad Hoiness said projects that represent out-of-the-box thinking like this are what the board wants the micro-grants to be used for.

Board member Terri Benson made a motion to approve the $500 micro-grant for the ATV Club, which was seconded by Mark Honsey and approved unanimously.

Rushford Manufacturing grant

The EDA also received a $500 micro-grant request from Rushford Manufacturing. The company is in the process of purchasing new business signs to display outdoors as well as a vehicle logo display. Wild Exhibit, LLC, in Houston will be doing the designs.

Janelle Ansell made a motion to approve the grant and seconded by Benson before being approved unanimously.

Guidebook funding requested

The Rushford Peterson Valley Chamber’s executive coordinator Jen Hengel came before the EDA to talk about the new guidebooks the chamber is putting together of area business, categorized by services offered. Hengel put in a request to the EDA to help offset some of the printing costs.

“The guide book is a very handy thing for new residents in this area as well as current residents,” Hengel explained. “We try to keep it updated for people who might be looking at coming to live in this area.”

She said the request level they’re looking for would depend on how many guidebooks are ordered. The chamber would need up to $1,100 in EDA assistance to print 2,500 guide books, or they would need up to $2,500 to print 4,000.

“I think we’re looking at the 2,500 quantity and making that last for two seasons,” Hengel noted. “I think we can make that work.”

Benson said she feels it’s a very good marketing tool that’s well constructed. If the chamber can add EDA information in the guidebook that says something to the effect of “Come here and do business,” then she felt it’s a win-win. She then made a motion to contribute $1,100 to support the project, seconded by Ansell. The board then approved the request unanimously.

Objective and Strategic Plan

“Believe it or not, I reference this thing (Rushford’s Objective and Strategic Plan) every day,” city administrator Tony Chladek told the EDA members. “I know we’ve been waiting to talk about it, let it soak in, and see if there’s things we can add and subtract.”

He said the objectives listed are the keys to the document, and the strategies they use to meet those objectives will come and go as opportunities permit.

Chladek said he’s comfortable making a recommendation to the EDA to adopt it, and he’s also comfortable recommending the city council adopt it as well.

Honsey made a motion to adopt the plan, seconded by Ansell. The motion was approved unanimously.

Driscoll retiring from board

Board president Tom Driscoll wasn’t able to make the April meeting, his last as president since his term is expiring. The EDA members signed and adopted a resolution thanking Tom for his many years of service to the EDA.

“This was Tom’s last meeting,” said Chladek, “so we’re going to need to go out and find another member for the EDA.”

Other business

Chladek informed EDA members of a potential business item for their next agenda. They’ll likely be having a discussion on EDA member Don Paulson’s position.

Chladek said the EDA bylaws indicate that members are only supposed to miss a certain number of meetings.

“Don’s been busy, and he hasn’t been able to attend a lot of meetings,” Chladek explained.

“I’m going to give him a call and ask if can still make meetings.”

Benson asked the group if the 5:30 p.m. meeting time still worked for the members? He noted that it might be a hard time for Paulson to get away from work.

“We need more members, so we need to recruit some people,” Hoiness said. Chladek said there’s a form to fill out that gets sent to the mayor (Chris Hallum), and the city council will act on it.

Hoiness also mentioned that Paulson has been a very valuable member to the EDA in the past. He said another item on the next agenda would need to be an election of officers.

Next meeting

The Rushford EDA meets the second Wednesday of each month, so its next regular meeting will be May 10 at 5:30 p.m. at Rushford City Hall.