Opposing forces on the question of all-terrain vehicle trails in Crow Wing County appear to agree on something - their level of frustration.
Tuesday consensus was reached that the county needs a trail inventory to know what exists now and commissioners spoke in favor of a trail system here. A trail was proposed from Brainerd to Emily with the hope of gaining official designation and state grant-in-aid funds for maintenance. After strong opposition arose, particularly from townships, the county withdrew the proposed trail plan that depended on township roads.
The focus shifted to using public land for the route.
"The question is where do we go from here," said Mark Liedl, land services director.
"I still think that we need to go forward," said Rosemary Franzen, board chairwoman. "I think we can do it without going over people's yards. I think there are ways to establish this by going on public lands. ... I want to protect the environment as much as anybody else and I think this is one way to protect the environment to make sure we have the money to do the job right."
Commissioner Doug Houge said a map is being worked on to keep the proposed trail on public land yet input from townships and cities is important.
"At this point I think we are back at step one," Houge said. "I want to keep it moving forward. I want to do it right."
Designating trails provides better control for everyone, Houge said.
"I don't sense we are back at square one," said Commissioner Paul Thiede. "... We are not going to get 100 percent buy-in on the part of everyone no matter what we do."
Commissioner Rachel Reabe Nystrom was absent. Commissioner Phil Trusty asked who was leading the charge on this issue, the county, clubs or the townships.
"I don't know who has got the ball," said Darrel Palmer, Central Lakes ATV club. Palmer said the clubs followed the county's process through the trail subcommittee and the parks, had numerous meetings, but after two years don't seem any closer to having trails on the ground.
Trusty said it feels as though the county is looking at the big picture but not connecting the dots. Thiede suggested a trail inventory.
Gary Fletcher, Fairfield Township road supervisor, said the townships should have been included early in the planning process. Fletcher said Fairfield Township residents weren't opposed to ATVs but they don't want an ATV trail through their township.
Opponents talked about concerns for dust, noise, safety and erosion. ATV club members talked about their efforts on safety training, good trail use and erosion control.
Pat McDermott, Miller Lake Road resident whose home was a short distance from the proposed ATV trail from Brainerd to Emily, said: "Put the trails in the right place. Don't put them in residential homes in my backyard."
ATV club members and township officials both spoke of frustration and communication issues for meetings. Fletcher said he doesn't get the Dispatch and didn't see meeting notices there. Palmer agreed townships should be involved. But he said township officials can't have it both ways as club representatives were told if they wanted to be at a meeting they should read the notice in the paper.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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