Photo by Jeff Lynch
The Tofte cross-country ski trails were not in
top condition for the upcoming North Shore
Mountain Challenge ski race, even before a
trespassing truck rutted the trails. Race
organizers fear the race will have to be
Ski Trails damaged by
By Rhonda Silence, Cook County Star
Pro-and-anti off highway vehicle (OHV) users are
upset over last weekend's damage to
cross-country ski trails in Tofte. The driver of
a 4-wheel drive pick-up truck took a destructive
detour, opening a closed gate and cruising down
several cross-country ski trails, inflicting
damage that could lead to the cancellation of
the inaugural North Shore Mountain Challenge.
Jeff Lynch of Tofte, trail maintenance
supervisor for the North Shore Mountain
Challenge, reported the extensive damage to the
North Shore cross-country ski trails by an off
highway vehicle with large tires. "Last
weekend, a 4-wheel drive truck drove into the
Britain Peak parking lot, past the signs and
right onto the ski trails. The truck tracks
extended onto the Homestead Loop and onto the
Picnic Loop," reported Lynch.
"This past weekend, a similar vehicle
entered at Oberg Mountain, went down the road
and past a closed gate onto the Oberg Mountain
ski parking area and drove onto the groomed
Onion River Road ski trail. This individual
purposely opened the gate to get onto the ski
trails. There are over 25 kilometers of ski
trails damaged by wheeled vehicles," stated
Lynch, and other members of the Lutsen-Tofte
Tourism Association, which is hosting the North
Shore Mountain Challenge, are concerned that
the damage cannot be repaired before the
February 1 cross-country marathon. The racers
were to ski the trails that the truck disturbed.
"We were hoping for a few more inches of
snow to improve the course," said Lynch.
"Now we need even more snow because the
trails are so rutted. Either we get a bunch of
volunteers out there, repairing the damage or we
get two feet of snow-or we cancel."
Local All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Club members
hope that will not happen. And they hope that
their efforts to form a club to establish and
oversee ATV trails in Cook County will not be
tainted by one irresponsible person.
"We are very sorry to hear about the
damage," said Brad Thompson of Grand
Marais, acting president of the Cook
County ATV Club. He added that the pick-up
truck driver was not a typical ATV user.
"The majority of OHVers would not go out
and purposely destroy someone else's fun."
Lynch believes that too, but said, "What
we're trying to do by exposing this is to make
the OHV groups realize that when one of their
group does something like this, it doesn't help
their cause. Hopefully, their peers will report
them-or at least criticize their behavior."
Roger Landers of the Minnesota Nordic Ski
Association (MNSA) doesn't necessarily agree
with Lynch. Regardless of whether the
perpetrators were typical ATV users or not, he
would like to see OHVers pay. "MNSA is
joining forces with non-motorized conservation
groups to lobby the legislature to access the
Off-Highway Vehicle dedicated account to repair
trail and other damages caused by 4x4 off-road
trucks, dirt bikes and ATVs," said Landers.
The trail trespass incident occurred just days
after the Minnesota Office of the Legislative
Auditor (OLA) released a report criticizing the
Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for
inadequate planning for OHV trails. In the
January 8, 2003 report, the OLA said the DNR had
been slow to initiate a planning process. The
OLA gave four key recommendations:
* The Legislature should require Environmental
Assessment Worksheets for many OHV projects.
* The DNR needs to develop an understanding of
how many miles of trails the department's OHV
budget will potentially support
* The DNR should devote at least as much
enforcement time per vehicle to OHVs as it does
* The DNR should take several steps to improve
the oversight that the snowmobile and OHV
grant-in-aid programs receive.
Anti-OHV groups like the Minnesotans for
Responsible Recreation (MRR) applaud the report.
MRR Director Jeff Brown called the report
"a resource for reform" and said his
group is working to institute the suggested
Anyone with information about the person(s) who
drove onto the North
Shore Cross-Country Ski Trail system, is
encouraged to contact Cook County Law
Enforcement at (218) 387-3030; Kathy Larson with
the DNR at (218) 879-3695 or Rebecca Francis
with the US Forest Service at (218)387-3232.