WALKER -- At least two Cass County commissioners don't think the Minnesota DNR plans for limiting off-road vehicle use in Foot Hills and Pillsbury state forests and surrounding county administered land provides enough trails.
Commissioner Bob Kangas said he rode his all-terrain vehicle in Foot Hills three weekends last summer and counted only 40 other ATVs using the trails over the three weekends. There are acres and acres of public forests, which should draw more use, he said.
He also said he does not believe hikers really are willing to live with deer fly attacks enough to get out and use hiker trails in the summer.
Commissioner Jim Demgen predicted without off-road vehicle trails designated in Pillsbury State Forest, the heavy southern Cass population will take their ATVs to county and township road ditches, causing damage and conflicting traffic congestion.
Commissioner Rusty Lilyquist also noted off-road vehicle users bring more dollars to Cass County's economic base than hikers, because they have to buy gasoline, machine parts and other items to support their sport. A hiker likely only will spend money for a bottle of water, he said.
Lois Campbell, representing the Minnesota Four-wheel Drive Association, told the county board she believes the state plan will compact too many people into two small an area for their recreation.
She also objected to the state plan to require buying off-road stickers to use the designated off-road trails. This will lead to any pickup or mini van wanting to drive through the area being subject to a fine if they don't have a sticker, she said.
Lowell Jaeger, Brainerd DNR office, said the proposed DNR trail usage plan calls for no off-road vehicle trails in Pillsbury State Forest and limited trail use in Foot Hills.
Limited means trails available to off-road vehicles will be posted open to them. They may not use other trails.
He said about 150 to 170 miles of trails in Foot Hills will be open there. Land Commissioner Norm Moody said when roads and county trails are combined with the state system, more than 200 miles of off-road available trail system will exist in Foot Hills.
Jaeger said the DNR currently is conducting an inventory of existing trails. The proposal presented to the county board Tuesday was scheduled to be presented to DNR officials in St. Paul today.
One public meeting will be announced for the Pine River area on Foot Hills trails plan and one in southern Cass or Brainerd for the Pillsbury plan, Jaeger said. He expects both meetings to occur about the end of March. Notices will be published before both hearings.
Following public input received at those meetings, Jaeger said the DNR will draft a final plan for trails use in the two state forests and implement the plan this summer.
Cass County Land Commissioner Norm Moody has been working with the DNR to coordinate county trails into the state plan. Final state plans are expected to include coordinating trails on county land.
Both state forests lie west of Highway 371 in Cass County.
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