COOK- An open house at the Cook Community Center on July 7 for people to review and comment on an updated and revised master plan for the David Dill/Arrowhead State Trail drew about a dozen people, …
COOK- An open house at the Cook Community Center on July 7 for people to review and comment on an updated and revised master plan for the David Dill/Arrowhead State Trail drew about a dozen people, with many showing up in support of opening up portions of the trail for off-highway vehicle use.
Department of Natural Resources Off-Highway Planner Joe Unger worked his way around the room past maps depicting eight sections of the trail that have been reviewed for possible development, stopping along the way to talk with visitors and answer questions. Multiple copies of the proposed master plan were available to read, and several people took advantage of the opportunity to do so.
Off-highway vehicles include Class I and Class II all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), off-highway motorcycles, and off-road vehicles that are larger than a Class II ATV. Under the current operating plan, these vehicles aren’t allowed to use the trail. In the proposed master plan revision they would have varied levels of summertime access that would not overlap with the winter period when the trail is used largely by snowmobiles.
“All the current uses will stay,” Unger said. “The snowmobile will stay, the non-motorized uses such as horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, walking, all that will stay.”
Each of the eight sections of the trail have been assessed for their potential viability for OHV use, considering the type of terrain, how new uses would impact established ones, possible environmental impacts, and whether trail upgrades or rerouting would be necessary.
The longest continuous stretch of the 125-mile trail from Tower to International Falls that has been assessed as having moderate feasibility for the introduction of summertime motorized uses starts near Elephant Lake and the intersection with the Arrowhead Link GIA snowmobile trail and ends at Gamma Road near Kabetogama.
This region coincides with a major segment of the trail system being developed by the Voyageur Country ATV Club. Members Bruce Beste and Steve Koch were at the open house and expressed their support for the new master plan.
“A lot of the snowmobile links on the Arrowhead Trail are already a corridor through the woods,” Beste said. “If there’s high ground where we can utilize the same corridor, it just seems more environmentally friendly, it seems more responsible to landowners, and it feels safer there.”
“If you build a sustainable trail that’s made for traffic, it holds the traffic,” Koch said. “From our trail system you can’t ride Highway 53, and there’s a big disconnect from the Sheep Ranch Road up to Ash River and the Kab. That’s basically the only route to get up there.”
Both touted the economic benefits to the region of allowing the rapidly growing community of ATV riders to access portions of the trail.
Meanwhile, the beginning and ending planning sections of the trail have been rated as low feasibility for OHV uses, and the ratings system will give DNR an idea of how to proceed if the plan is approved.
“The feasibility of each section really helps you because there’s a couple of sections where we can’t even really consider some motorized use because of how wet it is, or there are too many wetlands and stuff like that,” Unger said. “There’s other sections that might be more turnkey where we can open up a lot sooner.”
No additional open houses or meetings are planned, but DNR will receive comments on the proposed master plan through July 29, Unger said. The original 1980 plan and the proposed revision, maps, answers to frequently asked questions, and a link to an online comment form are available at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_trails/arrowhead/index.html.