In large part, the annual ATV Spring Fling is meant to embrace the riding season ahead.
At the fifth annual Fling on April 15 at the Old Waterfall north of Brainerd, it was all about the future — likely several seasons down the road — on the Camp Ripley/Veterans State Trail (CRVST).
The trail was the bulk of the program at this year’s Fling, featuring speakers Bob Reinitz, the trail committee chair, and Wade Miller, Parks and Trails area supervisor in Brainerd.
More than 70 ATVers and CRVST advocates, including Rep. John Ward, DFL-Brainerd, crammed the banquet room at the Old Waterfall to get an update on a trail that has been in the works for several years.
According to the Camp Ripley/Veterans State Trail brochure, “As the first in Minnesota recreational trail construction, the Camp Ripley/Veterans State Trail will be a true multi-use trail ... Accommodating motorized as well as non-motorized users.”
Mark Kavanaugh, owner of Kavanaugh’s Resort on Lake Sylvan in East Gull Lake and a trail committee member, didn’t attend the Fling. In fact, Kavanaugh isn’t an ATV rider — has never been on one, he said. But he embraces the trail wholeheartedly.
“I’m just a trails guy,” said Kavanaugh, also president of the Crow Wing County Snowmobile Trails Association and an avid snowmobiler. “To me, in the tourism business, it’s an amenity. The more you can add the better for the area.
“A $2 million bonding bill is floating around the Legislature. I’m not so sure it will go through this year. And there are two more years before the next bonding bill. With the Paul Bunyan Trail segment going down to the park (Crow Wing State Park), you’re looking at Legacy funding in two years.”
So for now, Kavanaugh and other CRVST advocates are taking a bit of a wait-and-see approach while remaining as active as possible.
“We (committee members) will keep working,” he said. “We’ll still want to keep the committee together and make sure we keep this going. Some of the user groups already have invested in this ... money for the engineering study — $10,000 (of $50,000) is what the user groups put in.
“Funding is in place to extend the Paul Bunyan Trail from Baxter to Crow Wing State Park. They’ll be building this fall or next spring for sure. That will give us our starting point. And as funding becomes available ...”
According to the brochure, the plan is for the trail to originate at Crow Wing State Park, extend west to Pillager, then south along the west side of Camp Ripley and east along the south side of Camp Ripley, across to the east side of the Mississippi River and then north through Fort Ripley to Crow Wing State Park. A second segment will extend southerly, near the Mississippi River, from the southeastern portion of the first segment of the trail to Little Falls and end at the Soo Line Trail in Morrison County.
“We’re trying to border the rivers and virgin forestland through Camp Ripley,” said Reinitz, adding that he’s also not an ATVer. Rather, he’s hoping to stimulate the economy in his community of Little Falls via the trail. “It’s going to be beautiful. This doesn’t exist anywhere else.
“There’s a good chance it will cost $20 million,” he added. “It comes down to ‘When can we get the money?’”
Said Kavanaugh: “The focus now is to concentrate on the legislative work. There’s only so far as we can go as a committee. We’ll wait on the master plan from the DNR, which will probably come early next year.
“I promote multi-use trails. We have to. If not, none of us will get what we want. We have to get along or we’ll have nothing.”