EAGLES NEST TWP- The Eagles Nest Town Board took the unusual step this past week of banning the use of ATVs and other off-highway vehicles on a short township road in a stop-gap effort to discourage …
EAGLES NEST TWP- The Eagles Nest Town Board took the unusual step this past week of banning the use of ATVs and other off-highway vehicles on a short township road in a stop-gap effort to discourage use of a planned route through the township during an upcoming statewide ATV ride and rally. The ride and rally, sponsored by the Prospectors ATV Club, is set for Sept. 17-19 and will be headquartered in Ely.
The road ban affects OHV use only on the dead-end Migisi Road, located off Swanson Shores Road, but the decision has broader implications. The township has pushed back against the Prospectors ATV Club that published maps showing travel routes through the township that are opposed by many residents. Migisi Road is the only road segment currently identified as part of the Prospectors ATV Club Trail #4 that is under the jurisdiction of the township. The other roads identified on the trail map are county roads, which are open to ATV use. Supervisors Rich Floyd, Kurt Soderberg, and Frank Sherman all voted in favor of the ban. Supervisor DeAnne Schatz was absent from the special meeting and did not take part in the vote.
The township enacted its ban after the Prospectors Club denied a request from the township to remove Trail 4 from the ride and rally route. The club had agreed to remove Trail 4 as a numbered route from its website, but said they would continue to show a legal route through the township using several county roads along with Migisi Road.
In an email dated Sept. 3 to town board chair Rich Floyd, Prospectors Club President Nick Wognum said the club would remove Trail 4 from the club’s website, but would then make adjustments to the website map to indicate “ATVs can continue down Walsh Road, turn on Migisi Road to continue to the west.”
The township’s latest move would appear to block the club’s revised route.
The township had previously passed a resolution opposing any trail route through its neighborhoods and has noted that a “substantial majority of property owners along Migisi Road in Eagles Nest Township are opposed to OHV traffic by non-residents there.”
Floyd opened the meeting by stating that the claims being circulated in the township that the meeting was in violation of the open meeting law were incorrect.
“I am confident we did not violate the open meeting law,” he said.
Floyd went on to state that while in the past he had said that the board wasn’t discussing banning ATVs, that was true at that time.
“We did not plan on it,” he said, “but now we are here talking about banning ATVs on a 2/3-mile long dead-end Migisi Road.”
Floyd said the township had made their feelings clear about the issue with club officials.
“The club chose otherwise,” he said. “Our hand has been forced.”
Floyd said the town board could either allow the ride and rally through the township, or make part of the route illegal, effectively prohibiting the club from using the route.
Soderberg noted the town board had never formally endorsed the Prospector Trail route through the township. He said ATV use in the township has historically been done responsibly, with little complaint.
Soderberg said the board was never formally notified of the published route through the township and had just received notification from ATVAM president Ron Potter that the township might temporarily see an increase in traffic from a reroute due to a bridge project on the Prospector Trail.
“But then I saw the free map they published last year,” Soderberg said, with the route mapped through the township on both county roads and Migisi Road.
Soderberg said the DNR had told the township they were not interested in opening up use of the Taconite Trail (snowmobile trail) that goes through Bear Head State Park to OHV use if the township did not approve.
“This is a trail system we never agreed to,” said Soderberg. “Voting on a ban is something I never wanted to do, but we didn’t have a choice.”
Soderberg said the ban may be temporary, but this will prevent the route on Migisi Road from becoming “a trail forever.”
Sherman said the purpose of the meeting was to consider the resolution, not to resolve all the other OHV issues.
“People have ridden ATVs in the township for many years,” he said. “I’ve never had a problem with people riding ATVs. They are just as annoying as people on jet skis, or those who play loud music. But we lived with it.”
Sherman said the township told the Prospectors Club several years ago that they were not interested in creating a trail system through the township.
“The problem we are dealing with today is created by an outside group,” he said. “They failed in their lobbying efforts to get what they wanted [use of the Taconite Trail] and decided without input from the township to make our roads, which are in and out, usable for their specific purpose.”
Sherman showed a copy of the original Prospector Trail map which showed the trail running along the Taconite Trail from Ely to Tower.
“They were unable to get that accomplished,” said Sherman, “so the Prospectors Club and Ely Echo, both run by the same man, printed the map in 2020 showing Trail 4 going on Walsh Road, Bear Head Road, and Swanson Shores Road.”
Sherman said he hoped this issue would not lead to divisions in the township.
He reminded members of the Prospectors Club that they have repeatedly told the township that they would abandon the Ride and Rally route through the township if ATV use was banned on Migisi Road.
“Then we can address the bigger issue of what we can do to allow our residents to use their ATVs. I do not view this as the final word.”
The audience, that numbered over 50, then had time to speak, although only four people took advantage of the opportunity.
Township resident Jeff Benn, a retired deputy sheriff, asked how the township would enforce the ordinance.
“I don’t think you can enforce it,” Benn said. “I think the resolution is B.S.”
Floyd replied that the resolution is a “stop-gap” measure and the town board is planning to have an ordinance in place before the Ride and Rally.
“The Prospectors Club and ATVAM have said in writing they will follow the law and only ride on roads that are legal,” he said.
Penny Reedy, an ATV user from Ely, said the ATV users she has ridden with are all respectful and careful riders.
“The rally is only one day,” she said. “You are not going to see hundreds of ATVs a day on the trails.” She said most organized rides are fundraisers.
“We aren’t trying to cause you trouble,” she said.
Another audience member, Don Pasanen, who lives on Hwy. 169, said he’s been riding four-wheelers “all his life” and has never had a problem with other ATV riders.
“It’s not like Sturgis,” he said. “These people are respectful.”
He said the route through the township is needed.
“I don’t want to ride 40 miles through Babbitt to get to Tower,” he said. “I want to go 10 miles to Tower.”
Planning for a more direct route from Ely to Tower, through the new Lake Vermilion State Park and planned OHV campground, is underway.
“I feel you are stepping on everyone’s toes,” he told the town board. “You are playing games. That is all you are doing.”
Pasanen urged the township board to work together with the Prospectors Club to find a route.
“There are enough smart people around here to figure out a route,” he said. “Nothing gets done by fighting.”
Resident Frank Pengal said he has used the Migisi Road route for many years.
“What you are considering really pissed me off,” he told the board.
“Common sense is to use the Bear Head State Park Taconite Trail,” he said.
“Our ultimate objective is to block an official route through the township,” said Floyd, “and banning OHVs from Migisi Road is the only way we can accomplish this on short notice. If the Prospectors Club commits to removing Trail 4, and no rally ride, there will be a strong incentive to remove the ordinance after it passes.”
Soderberg urged OHV users to talk to the Prospectors Club and ATVAM.
“They are the ones insisting they have to have this ride through the township,” he said.
Soderberg reiterated that the “vast majority” of township residents he has spoken to do not want the ATV route on township and county roads as a primary route through the township.
The next regular town board meeting is on Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 5 p.m.