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Cook County Star, May 17th, 2004

Commissioners neutral on ATV trail use
By Pat Ciochetto

May 17th, 2004
A delegation from the Cook County all-terrain vehicle (ATV) Club approached the Cook County Commissioners on Tuesday, May 11, 2004 to define the position adopted by the Club with regard to designating specific trails that can be legally used by ATVs, and various members of the community were also present to refute the request or to state their positions.
The ATV Club submitted a petition with approximately 473 signatures to the Commissioners as well as a letter stating its reasons for the request. Because of a large number of speakers, the Commissioners requested that each speaker limit himself to a maximum of five minutes.
John McClure, Vice-President of the ATV Club opened the discussion by stating that the Club would like to see The North Shore State Trail (NSST) opened to ATVs. He clearly stated that the snowmobile trail is the responsibility of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), that the DNR is responsible for its maintenance, and usage designation. It must therefore be the decision of the DNR as to whether the trail can have multiple usage by both snowmobiles and ATVs. McClure stated that other states and other areas have opened National Forest lands to ATV usage successfully.
John Knutson, Region II Director of ATV Minnesota, then took the floor to state that his organization supported multi-use trails. He stated that it was both cost-effective and environmentally more favorable to extend the use on an existing trail rather than to develop an entirely new one. He said that the NSST could become one of the primary trails in Minnesota and that it was preferable to keep ATVs on trails rather than in the wildlands, and that designated trails would reduce negative impact on the environment.
Rhonda Silence, Secretary of the ATV Club informed the Board that the Club had been in touch with one Ron Potter, DNR Statewide OHV (off-highway vehicle) Coordinator and that the Club had been told that because of the serious dispute that occurred at the last meeting in Cook County, the DNR was unwilling to look at the issue again unless specifically invited to do so by the county.
Silence explained that ATV users are presently using old logging trails, snowmobile trails (illegally) and other areas for riding, but that these were not designated as legal trails, and moreover, were hard to access. They are oftentimes disconnected, and it is hard to get from one to the next. Silence also stated that the Club would like to designate a limited area for rough usage (scramble area), so that the people who wanted to drive in this manner could do so without damaging regular trails.
Gene Lashinski, a local businessman, spoke at the meeting stating that he supported multiple-use trails, and that last year there were more ATVs registered than snowmobiles.
Gayle Coyer, representing the Superior Hiking Trail Association, submitted a map showing a portion of the hiking trail that goes through a wetland that would be totally unsuitable for ATVs. Coyer said that the Hiking Association is unwilling to move its location from the NSST. She said that changing the trail would involve a great deal of work and expense.
Clyde Hanson of Lutsen stated that he was representing Cook County businesses and citizens. Hanson advised the Board that it was premature to make any decisions at the present time. He said that the DNR has not completed its plan. In addition Hanson said that his group desired to convert a part of the trail system into a birding and hiking trail. Hanson also said that members of the community have not been informed of these plans and that no consensus has been reached. He went on to say that it was not feasible to plan a motorized trail system at this time but that the whole system should be planned together.
Hanson said that with over two million wildlife watchers and hikers, this group far surpassed the number of ATV users and that the former group were most interested in peace, quiet and serenity. Hanson said that he didn't think motorized vehicle users represented a great economic contribution to the community, and that the DNR did not have a policing force large enough to oversee the trail system as proposed.
Steve Frykman supported Hanson's statement and agreed that the whole situation needed to be given more thought.
Jan Horak of Cobblestone Cabins in Tofte upheld the desire for silence and quietude. He said that the noise factor is very detrimental to hikers and birdwatchers, and that he is not at all sure that the NSST is the right place for ATVs.
David Seaton, owner of Hungry Jack Outfitters on the Gunflint Trail said that a number of businesses will be concerned when they hear that the ATV Club also wants the DNR to consider some grant-in-aid snowmobile trails. He said that plans for legal ATV trails had been turned down in Wisconsin.
Several other persons stated various opinions regarding the issue.
Finally, Chairman Bob Fenwick explained that it was not the responsibility of the Board of Commissioners to make decisions as to the ultimate determination or designating of trails, but solely the responsibility of the DNR; that each and every interested group could and should present its views and desires directly to the DNR, and that the DNR is obligated to respond to these requests. Fenwick noted that the DNR was in the process of completing an inventory of the trail system, but that this inventory would not be completed until at least October, at which time the DNR will make its recommendations.
Fenwick said the DNR should eventually prepare a list indicating the areas where ATVs can be ridden, and look at the NSST to evaluate and consider whether or not it will be converted or re-designed.
Fenwick went on to say that he supported the DNR and its processes. In the meantime he recommended that the Board of Commissioners remain objective. He proposed getting in touch with the DNR to ask that it work with all of the interested groups and take all their suggestions into consideration. Fenwick stated that at the present the most important decision was, "which trails are appropriate for what."
Commissioner Walt Mianowski made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Jan Hall, that the County draft a letter to the DNR, stating its support, and asking that the DNR be open to suggestions from varying groups. The motion was carried unanimously, and the letter will be drafted and submitted to the next Board meeting for approval.


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