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County promises action on ATV plan

The use of off-highway vehicles on county-administered forest roads and trails continued to draw controversy at Tuesday's meeting of the Becker County Board.

Members of the Becker County Citizens for Responsible Recreation were in attendance at the meeting. According to their spokesperson, Willis Mattison, they wanted reassurance that the county board would commit the necessary funds, human resources and information for completion of a countywide outdoor recreation plan.

In a prepared statement, distributed to the commissioners and members of the media, Mattison laid out the group's concerns.

"The provision of the proposed recommendation that allows unfettered ATV access to Becker county administered lands to continue is predicated on the understanding that this ATV access is in fact temporary, pending completion of the recreation plan," Mattison stated.

However, as Mattison had pointed out during the open forum portion of the meeting, the resolution to be considered by the board at Tuesday's meeting contained no reference to the proposed recreation plan at all.

Commissioner Harry Salminen pointed out that the omission was not intentional.

"It was not our intent, or the intent of the Natural Resources Department, to bamboozle anyone... this is just language that we forgot (to include in the resolution)," Salminen said. "We did not intend to deceive you."

A revised resolution was crafted and distributed during the meeting, which contained an additional clause that stated: "Be it further resolved that the County commit to the development of an Outdoor Recreation Plan within a timely fashion."

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners made a rare decision to go against the recommendations of the County Planning Commission.

The Planning Commission had recommended at its May 19 meeting that the county deny issuance of a conditional use permit to Scott and Vicki Stelter.

The Stelters were seeking a permit to construct a 100-by-200 foot outdoor riding arena, with 20-foot crow's nest, to be used for horse shows.

County Commissioner Larry Knutson, who also sits on the planning commission, said the group had voted to deny the permit because of concerns over access to the arena.

Knutson said that he and the other commission members felt the driveway was not wide enough for two vehicles to meet and pass each other -- based upon a first-hand inspection of the site.

"People were on the site and came to this conclusion," Knutson said, adding that it was difficult for the board to argue.

At Tuesday's board meeting, Stelter reiterated his testimony from the May 19 commission hearing, saying that traffic at the horse shows would generally be one-way; people would enter the arena site all at once, and leave all at once. The driveway was also circular in shape, to allow entering and exiting vehicles to avoid each other, Stelter added.

In addition, if a second point of access was needed, Stelter said people could access the site through the Gilbertson property, adjacent to his.

But the commissioners continued to question the access issue, and were reluctant to go against the findings of the planning commission.

"Would it be reasonable to widen the driveway at one point (to allow two vehicles to be able to pass each other side by side)?" Commissioner John Bellefeuille asked.

Stelter said this would be an acceptable compromise, and the county board approved the permit, subject to the addition of an 8-by-50 foot long lane in the driveway to allow vehicles pass each other.

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.

(218) 844-1454