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Sno Toppers: 40 years of clearing the trails

Talk to the old timers around town and many of them have fond memories of their time as Sno Toppers. The club, which maintains local snow mobile trails, has been around for 40 years.

"A lot of the town at one point belonged to the club," said Dick Sens.

Sens was part of the club when it started in 1969 and held membership until the late 1980s.

While it's been years since he's even been on a sled, Sens has plenty of good memories of his time with the club. Sens now lives in Florida.

"At some of our rides we'd have as many as 100 machines," said Sens.

Former member Joe Tompkins said when the Rosemount club was founded it was one of the first in the state and attracted people from all over the Twin Cities to the area.

"It was an awesome sight watching the multitude of snowmobile lights coming over the hill while sitting at the Empire Supper Club," said Tompkins.

In Tompkins' day the club was more of a social group. Trails weren't groomed and there were few limits on where snowmobiles could go.

Times have changed though, and a new generation of Sno Toppers are struggling to keep the club going.

The club has more responsibilities these days. In the fall the group checks with 13 landowners to make sure they have permission to place trails through their property and put up markers along the 26 miles of trails in Rosemount. In the spring the club takes down the signs. Through the winter the Sno-Topper members groom trails once a week.

Trails start in downtown Rosemount and go all the way to Coates along 160th Street. The trails along 160th are one way. Trails also go through UMore Park.

Most trails open Dec. 1 and run until March 30. Due to hunting, the south trail across UMore Park will not open until later.

The club offers an all day safety class each year, which is required for beginners, and holds a fundraiser for a charity every other year.

While the club receives money from the state for its efforts on the trails, the workload adds up and the handful of active members are getting burned out.

On a good snowy year, Phil Steinle, club vice president, said thousands of people use the trails. A member for going on three years, Steinle is dedicated to keeping the club going to make sure there are local trails available to ride but he said the club needs more members who are willing to step up to the plate.

Joe Klein, a longtime member, said the club's membership usually wanes with the weather. He said a couple of snowy winters would probably help the club out.

"It's up to mother nature how many members we have," he said.

Hoping this year might be the one to boost membership, club president Jerry Tompkins said regardless they need people.

"If we don't get help, there won't be trails in Rosemount," said Jerry. Jerry is Joe's son.

Terry Kramer heeded that call a year ago. A longtime snowmobile rider, Kramer said he wanted to see the trails stay open so he joined the club.

Kramer now serves as the club's treasurer and said he enjoys it.

"The club rides are fun and it something to do in the winter," he said. "Rosemount's unique in that for a lot of us we can take off from or driveway," he added.

In addition to providing a recreational activity for residents, Kramer said the trails bring people and their money into the city. He added that businesses such as area gas stations and restaurants gain from having the trail system nearby.

The Rosemount Sno-Toppers meet at the Rosemount American Legion the first and third Tuesday of each month during the fall, winter and spring. The next meeting will be Nov. 17.

For more information on the Rosemount Sno Toppers call Jerry Tompkins at 651-324-8608.