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OHV ATV trail plans not done, but 4X4 route being added
 The Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) plan being developed for Hubbard County is calling for a 4X4 mudder truck route in the Paul Bunyan Forest - in addition to all-terrain vehicle (ATV) use - and elimination of the non-motorized designation for the Gulch Lake Management Area. The OHV plan is in the final stages and is expected to be under review by Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Gene Merriam in August, said Area Trails and Waterways Supervisor Dick Kimball. The Paul Bunyan and Badoura State Forests will likely be reclassified as limited, Kimball said, the areas closed to OHVs unless posted “open.” The forests are currently classified as “managed,” a term eliminated by the Legislature in 2003. “We have two options, limited or closed,” as the area relates to OHV use, Kimball explained. “Our other option was to recommend they be closed to OHV use.” The 2003 Legislature called for an inventory of all the roads and trails “exhibiting human use” and a proposal for reclassification. The OHV plan calls for trails in the Paul Bunyan State Forest to be used by ATVs, off-highway motorcycles (OHM) and off road vehicles (ORV). “They will be contained,” Kimball said of OHV travel, “not all over the forest.” OHVs will also be able to ride on the county’s inventoried forest roads. Barry Babcock said fellow members of the Jack Pine Coalition were “stunned” by the proposed elimination of the Gulch Lake non-motorized designation, “but the 4X4 truck route in the Paul Bunyan Forest is of greater concern.” The initial OHV plan, which had been rejected by the DNR commissioner because of the lack of mudder truck trails, had been friendlier to the forest, he said. “Paul Bunyan has become an OHV park,” Babcock said. “It’s overrun by OHVs.” “The problems in the Paul Bunyan have been created by locals who know their way around,” Kimball said. “They go where they want to go. The problem with ditches and wetlands is not with the recreational riders but the locals and young people.” Several members of the Jack Pine coalition met with Sen. Carrie Ruud (R-Breezy Point) in Walker last week to discuss the matter. Connector trails leading to bars throughout the county was a topic as was the ATV trail development in ditches. Questions were raised as to the amount of grant in aid funds provided to the clubs (approximately $30,000 annually per area club). Babcock alleges the funds are being misappropriated. Riders of rough terrain vehicles, the latest evolution of the OHV, are also looking for trails on public lands, Ruud said. The machines handle more difficult terrain than the present ATVs. The OHV issue has been largely ignored by legislators, Babcock said, Ruud the exception. Wildlife Management Areas have been opened to ATVs with legislators’ approval. “The public has become immune,” Babcock said, defending the issue as being “part of the economy.” The OHV industry and riders have pumped huge sums of money into lobbying efforts, he noted. “This is a sport that is proving to be an outlaw culture,” Babcock said. “There’s a misconception regarding ORVs,” Kimball said. “These are not the show trucks found in arenas.” Most are Jeep CJ7s with a short wheel base, made to go off the road, sporting bigger tires and an “expensive” suspension system, he said. The initial plan for Gulch Lake had called for forest zoning, closing a portion to OHV use, Kimball said. Because of the way the legislation is written, the commissioner’s legal staff has determined the DNR does not have the authority to designate portions of a state forest as “closed.” A petition, earning signatures from 500 snowmobilers and support from the Nevis Trailblazers and Leech Lake Riders, expressed opposition to sharing the Beaver Lakes Trail on the southern rim of Gulch Lake and other grant in aid trails with OHVs. The petition garnered no response from the DNR commissioner, however, Babcock said. The 60-page OHV report, likely to be released in August, will include OHV trail designation and a forest reclassification plan. It will be posted on the DNR Web site with a 60-day public review period to follow. The plan includes both county and state lands. Six maps will accompany the report, one defining a complete trail inventory, another with the trails that are to be open to OHVs. Maps specific to ATVs, OHMs and ORVs and highway vehicles only will be posted. The DNR Web site may be found at www.dnr.state.mn.us Go to OHV plans. Written comments will carry the heaviest weight, Kimball advised. All comments will be reviewed and receive a response. An informational meeting is expected to be scheduled, but it will not be a hearing format. Opinions on the matter must be in written form.

Composed: 07/01/2004 | Modified: 07/01/2004

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