Public trail systems can be used by everyone.
One may walk the trails, go biking and drive all-terrain vehicles on trails that are open to motorized vehicles. Many Crow Wing County residents were concerned about this kind of trail use on tax-forfeited land.
The county held two public forums, one in Brainerd Wednesday and another in Fifty Lakes Monday, to gather information from residents on the 15-year-old county management plan for tax-forfeited lands. A year ago the county decided to update this plan, which should be ready to go to the county board for approval in about eight weeks.
About 30 people gathered in the county service building Wednesday to express their concerns, including Terry Sluss, chairman of the Crow Wing County Board; Jim Hill, Gilbert Dewes and John Ferrari, county commissioners; Mary Koep, candidate for Sluss' county board seat; Robert Albrecht, a member of the planning and zoning commission; and Lansin Hamilton, former county land commissioner.
"Not everyone will agree with this plan," said John Powers of Klaers, Powers and Associates in Duluth, who was hired by the county to draft the plan. "But I hope that people will be comfortable enough with it."
"I just want a better balance," said John Reynolds of Merrifield about the trails being either closed or open to ATV's. "If there is no control or restrictions its not going to change (having ATV's on the non-motorized trails)."
Another resident, Dean French of Ironton, said there are enough regulations. I think the government just wants more control, he said.
"Why can't we use all the trails?" asked Alex Smude Jr. of Brainerd about using ATV's on trails. John McGuire of Pequot Lakes agreed.
"Motorized trails should continue," he said. "ATV's should be able to go everywhere a snowmobile can."
"It's not that easy," said Powers. "This is a process and we will try to work it out for everybody."
Powers said there is a need for more recreational opportunities on the tax-forfeited lands. With the input the county receives from the public will help him pick out potential sites. There are three categories for these sites. Parks would be in the smaller areas and focus on recreation. Loggers will only be allowed to take out the dead trees in these parks.
The forest recreation areas could be a loop trail system and would be somewhat larger than a park. There would be some forest management.
Dispersed recreation areas would be used for walking, hiking or hunting activities. Motorized vehicles would be allowed only on trails that are open to them in this area. There also would be no facilities or restrooms on the land.
In the county, there are 103,000 acres of tax-forfeited land. A majority of it is in the northern and eastern portion of the county. In 1998, the county generated about $1.06 million from its tax forfeited land, giving it $10.32 an acre. In addition, timber sold from these lands created employment for loggers and mill workers. The large blocks of this land is also highly valued for hunting, motorized and non-motorized trails and the landscape helps support the region's tourism economy.
Galen Adkins, Pine River, said the county should continue to promote tourism. He also noted that county land should remain for the people because not everyone can afford land.
"There have not been a lot of comments on the forestry aspect," said Powers. "No one is proposing to have the county sell the land. They want it to be used for hunting, the woods and trails."
The forest products industry remains strong with two major facilities in the county -- Potlatch in Brainerd and Weyerhauser's Trus Joist facility in Deerwood.
"They are doing a good job, leave them alone," said French.
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