upholds its ATV ruling
St. Louis County affirms its stance on the use of ATVs on
the North Shore Snowmobile Trail.
By John Myers
Duluth News Tribune
St. Louis County commissioners won't retract their support
of plans to designate the North Shore Snowmobile Trail
as a summer ATV route.
After hearing testimony from supporters and critics Tuesday,
commissioners voted 4-3 not to reconsider the controversial
Critics complained the proposal wasn't listed on the
board's December agenda, and they were never informed
of a pending vote.
ATV supporters, however, knew about the measure and attended
the December meeting in Ely, where it was approved.
"We broke a cardinal rule. We brought something
up not on the agenda... and we passed it," said Commissioner
Peg Sweeney of Proctor.
Sweeney voted for the ATV trail in December but moved
to reconsider the vote Tuesday, saying the resolution
should be tabled until both sides can testify.
But most commissioners dismissed her concerns, saying
money was not being expended and the resolution simply
shows support for the concept of an ATV trail, not the
The trail, if designated, would be managed and maintained
by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Supporters argued there is public confusion between the
North Shore Snowmobile Trail and the Lake Superior Hiking
Trail, a different route not directly affected.
"Our resolution was rather benign. It says we support
a concept," said Commissioner Dennis Fink of Duluth.
"The DNR will decide if this is a good idea or not."
About 20 miles of the 146-mile state trail are in St.
Louis County. ATV enthusiasts and DNR trails staff envision
the North Shore Trail as the backbone of a regional web
of official ATV routes as the state works to develop a
designated network similar to that used by snowmobilers.
Designating where ATV riders should go will help alleviate
problems of off-trail riding, supporters said, including
trespassing on private property and environmental damage
in wetlands and stream crossings.
"This is the start of solving the problems,"
said John Knutson of Duluth, president of the North Shore
Opponents said the North Shore trail, while fine for
snowmobile travel in winter, is ill-suited for summer
ATV use because it crosses wetlands and sensitive North
Shore trout streams. They argued that ATV use will push
out any hiking and horseback riding.
"This trail passes over countless tributaries of
streams... along the North Shore," said David Carman
of Duluth, adding that erosion and siltation from repeated
ATV use will damage stream habitat. "This is insanity,
folks. Please reconsider for the sake of the environment."