Despite plenty of early-season snow, Cloquet residents have found the tubing hill at Pine Valley Park closed so far this winter.
After studying the last few years of use at the hill, the Cloquet Parks Commission and the Cloquet School District’s Community Education Department decided to close the hill permanently this fall.
Cloquet Public Works Director Caleb Peterson and Community Education Director Ruth Reeves said there were a number of concerns with the hill, including safety, the inability to make snow and difficulty staffing the hill.
“The hill itself was built as a ski run many, many years ago, and it wasn’t really designed for tubes,” Reeves said. “We had a lot of ambulance calls when it was open and then the tow rope is quite ancient and right now is not functioning.”
The lack of snow early in the season contributed to the lack of use, Peterson said.
“Traditionally, if you don’t have enough snow at the schools’ winter break, people just forget about you,” he said.
In recent years, use of the hill was “very sporadic” and even when there was enough snow for the hill to open, it would eventually become dangerous, Peterson said.
“Once we had enough snow, it would turn to ice,” he said. “People would get going too fast, and it just wasn’t safe.”
Over the past few years, the hill was open just a handful of weekends. With such irregular hours, staffing was also a recurring issue for Reeves and the Community Education Department, which oversaw the hill’s management.
What’s more, the 2.5-mile, single-track mountain bike trail crosses the hill and has created a flat spot that increases safety concerns, Peterson said.
Parks Commission member Tim Krohn said the hill sees “almost daily use” from fat bike riders and snowshoers — far more often than it is used for tubing.
There also hasn’t been much demand for the hill to open in the early days of the current season.
“In general, we’ve had so few days we were open the past few years, I don’t know how many people have missed it,” Peterson said. “It turned out to be a tremendous amount of work and maybe only opened two weekends over the course of the winter.”