The Crow Wing County Board Tuesday unanimously approved the study and review of the environmental feasibility of an all-terrain vehicle trail in Crow Wing County between Brainerd and Emily.
The board vote means an ATV trail project proposal will be prepared and submitted to the DNR through the trails assistance program for review and funding consideration. The plan is for the DNR, the county and area clubs to work together to identify a trail route.
Tom Cowell, land commissioner, said the board was not being asked to approve a specific route at this time. This isn't the first time the board has considered the project. The land department asked the board for its support for the concept in May.
During that session, the board learned part of a potential trail system may be encroaching on a protected American Indian burial mound and village site known as the Black Bear site, between the Mississippi River and Black Bear Lake. A citizen petition to the Environmental Quality Board asked for an environmental assessment worksheet on the project. The DNR was given the assignment to prepare an EAW if required.
Once the proposal for a trail is submitted to the DNR, the agency's process includes an environmental and cultural review and allows for a public comment period.
Frank Burton, director of the St. Cloud American Indian Movement, said the Indian Affairs Council, DNR and state archeology office are working together for plans to survey the land.
"We're not anti-ATV trails or anything," Burton said, adding the goal is to have an opportunity for input now so a trail plan won't have to be halted in the future because of its path.
Tim Browning, northwest regional manager for the DNR trails and waterways division, said the DNR will work with county staff and come back to the board to see if a conceptual route is the one the county wants to go with.
"Your submission of a project proposal to the Department of Natural Resources is the beginning not the end of the process," Browning said.
The proposal can be refined following the public comment period, Browning said. The next step will be to determine if an EAW is necessary.
Before a trail becomes a reality, approval will be needed from townships with road systems that may be part of the proposal along with permission from private landowners if their land is affected.
"The Department of Natural Resources isn't interested in granting any project that would desecrate any sacred sites and our process will include thorough investigation of cultural sites, as well as threatened and endangered species. ... All of our resource specialists will be involved with the various reviews we conduct. We will come through an understanding or agreement with the American Indian community as to the right location for this trail."
The trail will be a county one, but the DNR would provide the funding and oversight, Browning said.
Commissioner Doug Houge said the proposed trail can work around sensitive areas and protect other projects such as the Milford Mine area. Residents spoke of concerns for noise, traffic, safety, social and enforcement issues. Commissioner Rosemary Franzen proposed altering the motion to include the archeology review, but withdrew that after Commissioner Paul Thiede said a comprehensive approach mentioned in the resolution covers all those issues.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.