A mile-long stretch of paved road in Pokegama Township has been converted into gravel, and this action has a township resident threatening a lawsuit.
Island Resort Road leads from Henriette Road (County Road 11) to homes and businesses including Floppy Crappie Lakeside Pub, a golf course and several RV parks. It is the only outlet for residents who live on Lakeview Shore Drive, Big Aspen Trail and Amber Lane in Pokegama Township.
Pokegama Township Zoning Administrator Gordon Johnson said Island Resort Road was first built in 1906. It was blacktopped 30 years ago by Woischke Enterprises
According to township officials, when the road was blacktopped, a one-inch layer of asphalt was laid over the surface of the existing roadbed. However, there were problems with the roadbed that caused the surface to degrade severely over time, and it required regular repairs.
Pokegama Township officials report that from 2017-2019, the township spent $6,453 repairing Island Resort Road – about five times what it would cost for upkeep of a similar stretch of gravel road.
In 2018, township officials decided to carry out a study on the structural integrity of the Island Resort Road at a cost of $9,332.
“We did soil borings and that road showed three bad spots in the subbase,” Johnson said. “The township’s decision was, they were not going to put asphalt on a road with a bad subbase. You would be going back five years from now and redoing the whole ... thing.”
He said that by transforming the road back into gravel it gives the township the opportunity to correct the base, and the road could then eventually be re-paved in the future. He said the cost of changing the road from blacktop to gravel was $23,000.
Island Resort Road resident Lyn Sahr said that residents were not notified by mail that the blacktop-to-gravel road project would be taking place.
“They had some meetings where it has been discussed, but I would have assumed that we should have had ... a letter identifying it,” Sahr said.
He also strongly objected to the decision to change the road surface.
“If it was always gravel, that’s one thing,” Sahr said. “But when something is blacktop for 30 years, and you just tear it all up and gravel it, it’s crazy. It’s just ridiculous. That’s a busy road. There’s a lot of people living down there. There’s big mobile home parks, you’ve got the supper club, there’s two big campgrounds, a golf course. It makes no sense.”
Sahr said he believed that residents along the road will be harmed by having to drive on gravel.
“Our cars are going to be filthy,” he said. “The road is going to be rough and cause damage to your car. It’s utterly ridiculous.”
Johnson said that the township waited until after the busy summer season was over to resurface the road. The township is now going to wait to see how the improved subbase holds up over the winter and the spring as the road settles. After one year, the property owners can petition the township to pave it.
However, Johnson noted that according to Pine County estimates, the cost of paving a 24 foot wide, mile long road would be between $275,000 and $325,000. This cost would be assessed to and split up among the six property owners along Island Resort Road.
Sahr believed that legal action would force the township to take a different approach.
“They will have a problem when we sue them, because it’s going to be a serious lawsuit,” Sahr said. “And they will be put into a corner and they will have to take care of this.”
(Editor’s note: Pioneer Editor Mike Gainor is the son-in-law of Pokegama Township Supervisor David Deutschlander.)