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County opts to save tram for boaters

The tram at Dunton Locks County Park will continue to serve boat traffic between lakes Sallie and Muskrat.

Area boaters will still be able to travel between lakes this summer.

The Becker County Board voted Tuesday to approve fixing the tram system between Muskrat Lake and Lake Sallie again this summer, and then look for a permanent fix for the Dunton Locks tram that seems to need constant repairs.

Last month, commissioners discussed what to do with the historic Dunton Locks tram, not finding a lot of support from residents and looking at a steep price tag to fix it properly.

After the possibility of it closing, though, residents filled the commissioner’s room Tuesday morning to express their concern at the potential closing of the tram.

Lake Sallie resident Mike Maloney said the tram is good for tourism, fishermen, businesses and real estate value and was “overly, overly concerned” that it might not open this summer. He said the commissioners should be discussing how to fix the tram, not whether they are going to or not.

He asked that the tram be open this year to give the county and lake residents “another season to plan for future renovations.”

Lake Sallie resident Roger Demers also spoke in favor of repairing and opening the tram this summer.

“We’d love to keep the tram open this year,” he said. “We’re willing to work with whomever.”

He asked if there was any possibility of money available through the county or the DNR to repair the tram. The county applied for a Legacy grant a couple years ago but was turned down.

Maloney said the supporters weren’t there to say they would pay for the tram, because the county should be backing the project, but the residents are willing to help.

“The tram is very important to the citizens on Sallie,” lake resident Pat Kenney said.

He added that when he has guests, he likes to take them out on the boat and through the tram because of its uniqueness.

He pointed out that the county must think it’s an important asset, too, because it is featured on the parks department portion of the county website.

“The one key is to keep it open. It’s important to the people,” he said.

Lake Sallie resident Jim Fondrick said that he’s been thinking about the issue and the recreational side of its importance.

“It has a huge economic value, great recreation value. It’s a treasure for Becker County,” he said.

The commissioners recognized that treasure, agreeing to get the tram running for this summer and then make plans to fix it long term.

“If we’re going to fix it, we need to fix it right,” Commissioner Larry Knutson said. “I think it is an asset to the community, but we need to figure out how to fix it.”

Commissioner Barry Nelson said that the county needs the support of the citizens to get funding for the tram system. He said that with their help, the county would be more likely to receive grants for the project.

At last month’s meeting, several cost options were presented including, Option 1 of basic maintenance includes a 20-foot rail on the Muskrat side, rebuild end pulleys on the Sallie and Muskrat sides, replace the cable and use a crane to line up the rail on the Sallie side. Cost estimate would be $15,000.

Option 2 was much more costly and is being proposed in two phases. It would include trolley replacement for $12,000; rail replacement for $35,000; new motor and drum for $6,500.

The second phase includes automation of the tram and safety enhancements for $25,000-$32,850.

Commissioner John Okeson said that the county should have a local fabricator come look at the tram for some fresh ideas on how to fix it, too.

“We need to get off the treadmill of fixing it every year. It just isn’t working,” agreed Commissioner Don Skarie.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.