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Great Lakes Article:

County 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 measure.

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 actual designation.

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 ATV Club.

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."

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