From The Spokesrider:
Last week in Iowa and southern Minnesota, we saw a lot of road signs that seem to be a new feature of the last several years. It seems that as the countryside gets depopulated, it is no longer necessary to maintain all of the section-line roads. There are no longer any children living on them who need to get to school in winter, etc. So they’re now designated as “Minimum maintenance roads.” Some of the signs also say something about winter, or about traveling at your own risk.
This designation was established in Minnesota in 1985 (PDF file):
. . . attempting to designate a road receiving even moderate amounts of traffic could jeopardize the designation and the protections it offers. Even if a road is only occasionally used, a town board should be very hesitant to designate a road as minimum-maintenance if there are homes on the road. Because school buses and postal carriers often refuse to travel on minimum-maintenance roads, designating a road minimum-maintenance could significantly impact homeowners on the road. Also, the lower level of maintenance on these roads could raise concerns over access by emergency vehicles. These concerns should lead any board considering designating a road with homes or other structures on it to proceed with caution and in cooperation with the owners on the road.
Don't miss this great photo of a North Dakota Minimum Maintenance Road in winter.
For the adventurous mountain biker these could be kinda fun:
We headed south out of Maskell and I simply couldn’t remember how far that I had to go before turning, but I did remember it was a dirt road. We probably weren’t even a mile out of town when I seen a sign that said “Minimum Maintenance Road”: “Hey Charlie, we need to turn here!” Well, a perfectly quiet road turned interesting quickly. First we had to chase three cows back into their field. The humor of that quickly faded as our dirt road became a dirt path with grass in the middle. Shortly thereafter it became a grass path that farmers use, then basically "grass". We wound around to the point of not seeing much in the way of a path at all. “Minimum Maintenance Road” suddenly became “wandering across the open range”. The fear of not being totally sure that I could backtrack where we just came from kept us driving forward.