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County rejects 70-mile ATV trail

Becker County commissioners said "no" to a proposed 70-mile trail system for all-terrain and off-highway motorcycles Tuesday, rejecting a measure to work with the State Department of Natural Resources on the pilot project -- at least for now.

Commissioners voted unanimously not to proceed with the trail after hearing from Becker County residents and White Earth Indian Reservation members, many of whom opposed the project, during a four-hour public meeting at the courthouse.

A number of residents also spoke in favor of the trail, including ATV enthusiasts from Becker County and the Twin Cities metro area.

The county board decided it was "putting the cart before the horse" to proceed with the 70-mile trail prior to completion of a just-started trail designation process for state forests and county public lands in Becker County.

The designation process is expected to take about a year, and will encompass the three state forests in Becker County as well as county tax-forfeited land, according to County Land Manager Chip Lohmeier.

The 70-mile ATV trail has had a rocky road in Becker County since last year, when the DNR chose the county over four other northern counties to host the first-of-its-kind trail system. The system would be located mostly in North and South Round Lake townships - on county- and state-owned land.

A committee that was originally set up to establish a route bogged down in disagreement and had to be disbanded, and the trail ran into opposition from township officials in Round Lake and Forest Township, passionate local environmentalists, and the White Earth tribal government.

Described as a series of Olympic rings hooked together, the trail system would include easy, intermediate and difficult routes. It would also include four rest areas furnished with parking lots, vehicle off-loading ramps, rest rooms and picnic facilities.

Minnesota allocated $340,000 for the project, with a requirement it be completed by next April.

See the Detroit Lakes Tribune for more details on the story.