2006 ATV Trail Update

Aug 22 Meeting Update- Sue Scott August 29, 2006

Attention Association Members: Within a month, the various reports at this website regarding the defeated 70 mile dirt bike/ATV trail will be consolidated into one concise report along with the enacting legislation for the proposed trail. Below is the most current information.

On August 22, 2006 the Becker County Board of Commissioners voted 5 – 0 to reject the controversial 70 continuous mile dirt bike/ATV trail that would impact our lake homes. An estimated 100 people were present, mostly opponents from affected townships, lake associations, Citizens for Responsible ATV Use in Becker County, the Jack Pine Coalition, White Earth Land Recovery Project and Anishinaabe Cultural Center. Others were present from nearby counties and from around the state who have been negatively impacted by an ATV trail near their home, to refute what little benefit the ATV trails are supposed to bring.

In support of the proposal were Representative Hackbarth, representatives from MN DNR, less than a dozen local ATV club members and a handful of ATVAM people from the Twins Cities including ATVAM club president Phil Morud, and past president, Cheryl Young from Coon Rapids.

Numerous persons from the news media were present including television, radio and newspapers as this meeting attracted much attention from outside our area.
Representative Hackbarth spoke first, followed by DNR employees Ron Potter and Bill Johnson (of Trails & Waterways) from St. Paul.

Our Commissioners Knutson, Bristlin and Nelson showing a great deal of leadership and concerns of the people who were to be affected, asked some very direct questions of these proponents (who lived outside this region). Further questions revealed that:

  • If this trail proposal was passed,ATV riders would still be able to ride on tangential trails leading to private property.
  • There were too many restrictions with no flexibility with the DNR proposal.
  • Irreparable damage could happen to our forests, wetlands, lakes, trails and roads.
  • DNR should conduct their own Forest Trail Inventory and Reclassification Process before ever proceeding with any new trail design.
  • There were no representatives from other sections/divisions of DNR that work to preserve the environment.

The Citizens for Responsible ATV Use then had thirty minutes to make their case. Our own Doug Schumann of Rainbow Resort did an excellent job for this group in presenting facts that refuted the notion that this ATV trail would be an economic boom to the county.

The floor was then opened for a forum for those who signed up with a limit of 3 minutes per comment. Among the many people who spoke were others from our lake Association representing Juggler Lake:

  • Steve Scott, Vice President, read the letter written by our President, Sandy Roman. He stated that the letter did not represent the whole association but those present at the meeting, but assured the Commission that we are ready to assist them in developing alternatives that would be satisfactory to property owners and ATV riders alike.
  • Edie Watson, newly elected Board member, emphasized that the Commission members were elected to represent us in Becker County, not people who live outside the area.She also emphasized that this part of the county is not a “private playground “as some proponents of the trail stated, but a place where we all live. She was also able to share personal negative experiences from living near a trail in northern MN.
  • Lanny Waalen, new member to the lake association and experienced with dirt bike riders, stated that the proposed trail to combine both dirt bikes and ATVs would be a conflict as their needs are different. Previously he has also writtenletters to the editor, the Commission, and has spoken to them before in open forum.
  • Sue Scott emphasized that the reasons why people come to this part of Becker County would be jeopardized by the trail and to seek alternative tourism draws that would preserve our resources, not destroy them. As she attended the morning Commissioners meeting, she was able to report that the Sheriff said his budget would need to be increased at least by $18,000 but realistically more than that.

Other comments made that have not been made before was that:

  • Resorts advertise peace and solitude.ATV riders who ride in the woods now, destroy the environment and make lots of noise.
  • OHV’s should be confined to special parks not trails.
  • Illegal ATV riding has already negatively impacted tribal hunting & gathering on White Earth.
  • Riding in the woods and forest at will is not a citizens right to everyone.
  • The people of White Earth ask for respect for their land, their people and their culture, not to be sacrificed for what ever economic gain might be made.
  • Find a way to connect existing trails as well as enforcement to prevent people from riding across private property.

At the end of comments, Chair Mulari asked the Commissioners how they were going to vote. Commissioners Knutson, Bristlin and Nelson said they would vote against it. Commissioner Nelson also said as he has said before that he would not support the proposal that was rejected by White Earth as well as the townships. Commissioner Salminen and Chair Mulari would have been the only dissenting votes. As Chair Mulari was going to dismiss the meeting without a formal vote, Commissioners Knutson and Nelson immediately made a motion with a second to defeat this proposal once and for all. A formal vote was taken and it was then unanimous. Our Commissioners Knutson, Bristlin and Nelson deserve many thanks in their consideration of the concerns of the people of north Becker County. Commissioner Salminen said after the meeting, not to thank him as he had not wanted to vote on emotion. He considered property owner’s concerns as emotion and not “information”.

It has been said that this is a victory that will not just impact Becker County but all of Minnesota. Much time and energy went into the grassroots efforts in making the defeat of the proposal a reality. There were letters to the editor from Scott Ulring of Juggler Lake, as well as association members Craig Wisted, Lanny Waalen, Steve Scott, and Sue Scott. Chris Rofidal emailed a letter to each Commissioner as he could not attend the meeting on August 22, and our own President Sandy Roman sent a letter to the meeting via Steve Scott. Many thanks to Ruth Bergquist of Round Lake who can be reached at bergquist@unitelc.com and many other people who did a service for all Minnesota in the continuing efforts to protect Minnesota’s natural resources. See the article below for the meeting coverage from a reporter’s viewpoint.

Please contact the Commissioners directly with your thanks and support. Their contact information is listed below as well as the two commissioners who did not support throughout the whole ordeal, but in the end, voted in our favor. For additional information such as their pictures, district areas, and terms of office go to www.co.becker.mn.us. Click the link on the left hand side to Commissioners, then again to their district on the left side of the page.

Larry Knutson
Term Ending: 2008
43030 County Hwy 56
Frazee MN 56544
Ph: (218) 334-4540
E-Mail: laknuts@co.becker.mn.us

Bob Bristlin
Term Ending: 2006
27739 County Hwy 141
Detroit Lakes MN 56501
Ph: (218) 847-2908
E-Mail: rdbrist@co.becker.mn.us

Barry Nelson
Term Ending: 2008
12972 County Hwy 11
Audubon MN 56511
Ph: (218) 439-3275
E-Mail: bknelso@co.becker.mn.us

Harry Salminen
Term Ending: 2006
12176 County Hwy 17
Detroit Lakes MN 56501
Ph: (218) 847-6295
E-Mail: hlsalmi@co.becker.mn.us

Karen Mulari
Term Ending: 2008
32506 County Hwy 34
Ogema MN 56569
Ph: (218) 983-3315
E-Mail: klmular@co.becker.mn.us

Recent MN Public Radio Story on ATV Trail

MN Public Radio ATV Story

Detroit Lakes News Story on ATV Issue

County rejects 70-mile ATV trail

Nathan Bowe
DL-Online – 08/23/2006

Becker County commissioners said “no” to a proposed 70-mile trail system for all-terrain and off-highway motorcycles Tuesday, rejecting a measure to work with the State Department of Natural Resources on the pilot project – at least for now.

Commissioners voted unanimously not to proceed with the trail after hearing from Becker County residents and White Earth Indian Reservation members, many of whom opposed the project, during a four-hour public meeting at the courthouse.

A number of residents also spoke in favor of the trail, including ATV enthusiasts from Becker County and the Twin Cities metro area.

The county board decided it was “putting the cart before the horse” to proceed with the 70-mile trail prior to completion of a just-started trail designation process for state forests and county public lands in Becker County.

The designation process is expected to take about a year, and will encompass the three state forests in Becker County as well as county tax-forfeited land, according to County Land Manager Chip Lohmeier.

The 70-mile ATV trail has had a rocky road in Becker County since last year, when the DNR chose the county over four other northern counties to host the first-of-its-kind trail system. The system would be located mostly in North and South Round Lake townships – on county- and state-owned land.

A committee that was originally set up to establish a route bogged down in disagreement and had to be disbanded, and the trail ran into opposition from township officials in Round Lake and Forest Township, passionate local environmentalists, and the White Earth tribal government.

Described as a series of Olympic rings hooked together, the trail system would include easy, intermediate and difficult routes. It would also include four rest areas furnished with parking lots, vehicle off-loading ramps, rest rooms and picnic facilities.

Minnesota allocated $340,000 for the project, with a requirement it be completed by next April.

See the Detroit Lakes Tribune for more details on the story.

ATV Trail Impact Information

What does this 70 continuous dirt bike and ATV trail mean to members of this Lake Association?

The 70 continuous miles are all within our two townships.

As a great part of our townships are water based (lakes, wetland areas, etc.) it will be impossible to avoid damage to our environment.

The trail in some places will be ¼-½ mile from some Lake Association homes.

Citizens for Responsible Use of ATVs have asked for a 1 mile buffer from all homes, it was denied.

The same organization asked that the trail be broken into smaller trails or use existing trails as part of the 70 continuous miles, it was denied.

Same group asked for a public hearing; it was scheduled in February (when most lake residents are not here) then denied as Commissioner Chair Mulari said nothing could come from it.

Some on Juggler are asking for a mail survey to determine the support or non-support of affected property owners but this has not been formally requested.

The proposed trail crosses Elbow Lake Road 5 times and also has a rest area. There might be liability of the township. This trail also goes through Many Point Scout Camp where 600 campers come and go every weekend.

Becker County Sheriff says he will need increase in staff as a result of this trail.

As there are already many existing trails that would intersect the new trails, residents are concerned about the protection of private property from curious riders.

Research by Round Lake shows that property values near a dirt bike/ATV trail will decrease anywhere from 10-25%.

As the proposed trail would be 6 feet wide and in some places deep in the woods, emergency response teams would have difficulty getting to the injured. (There are hundreds injured every year in the state)

Township costs will be increased due to paying for expenses related to emergency response teams (fire, police), as well as trail maintenance, road maintenance, enforcement.

There is now loss of trust in the persons pushing for this 70 mile trail in our backyards from their misleading statements, half-truths, and design involvement of people who have NEVER designed an ATV trail. This 70 mile trail would be the first in the state.

There is a trust issue with the volunteer monitoring of the trail by a newly formed ATV organization in Detroit Lakes whose president publicly said that the ATV riders would not need to wear orange clothing during tribal deer hunting season.

Near-by Hubbard County resident reports that damage on and off trail around his home has been increasing incrementally every year (having 60+miles of ATV and 115 miles of dirt bike trails nearby).

If this proposal is based on attracting tourism dollars, lake owners, friends and families outnumber and outspend any other group of visitors that would come to our township areas.
Only a few stand to gain financially to this trail as it is now proposed. Many more stand to lose.