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Becker County wants off-highway vehicle trail ASAP

Three months. That's how much time a newly-formed subcommittee of Becker County's OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) Policy Subcommittee has been given to bring back a tentative OHV Trail System to the county for review.

Will Yliniemi and Guy Fischer, co-facilitators for the OHV Policy Committee, brought the proposal for creating the new subcommittee to Tuesday's county board meeting.

As laid out in a Dec. 6 memo to the commissioners, the proposal was that "a subcommittee of the OHV Policy Committee be formed to work with White Earth, the county, and the DNR to begin laying out an OHV trail system for sustainable recreational riding, keeping in mind non-motorized concerns and uses."

The subcommittee would include representatives from the DNR, the county and White Earth as well as interested committee members.

The proposal initially met with some resistance from commissioners.

"In my opinion, this is getting to be a very long process, and we're not getting much done," noted County Board Chair Barry Nelson.

"My concern is that you're just going to be rehashing some of the same issues in this subcommittee (that were discussed by the committee itself)," added Commissioner Harry Salminen. "We need to get a trail out there, someplace."

"We need the experts to take a look at where these trails can go," Yliniemi pointed out, adding that until the committee determines what is actually feasible, they can't really move forward.

Fischer noted that he expects the subcommittee could conceivably have a tentative trail map to bring back to the OHV Committee in two to three months.

Mark "Chip" Lohmeier, the county's Natural Resource Management director, said that if the county were looking at "just an ATV trail," the process might not take so long.

"We should be talking about motorized access in general," he added.

Committee member Barbara Boyle, of the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, noted that she felt the subcommittee proposal was "a real step forward."

"We defined our mission... and listened to each other with respect," she said, adding, "It's going to take a lot of work, but ... I think this group is committed to sitting down and getting it done."

Committee member Steve Tucker, representing Ice Cracking Lodge, noted that he had a lot of people coming in who wanted to know where they could ride.

"They just need a map and a place to go," he said. "It (a designated trail) would help keep people off private lands."

Eventually, the commissioners came around to the committee's point of view -- but not without issuing a stern warning.

"We want a product," noted Salminen. "I want to see something we can publish (i.e., a trail map)."

"I've read these minutes (of the committee meetings), heard the comments ... and it does raise some concerns with me," Nelson said. "If there is a (committee) member trying to derail this process, they're not welcome on this committee."

Nelson further noted that the board was giving co-facilitators Fischer and Yliniemi the authority to act as "their arm" in making sure the subcommittee keeps moving forward on their task.

Representatives on the new subcommittee will include Barbara Boyle, Ron Jensen, Willis Mattison, Ray Thorkildson, Steve Tucker, Joe Vesy, Jerry Wettles, Katherine Warren (White Earth), Chip Lohmeier (Becker County) and Kent Wolf (DNR).

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

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