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Crow Wing County ATV trail vote expected Tuesday

A proposed all-terrain vehicle trail known as the Fort Ripley, Brainerd, Pine Center grant-in-aid trail. has generated controversy for a couple of years. 

Crow Wing County commissioners are expected to decide Tuesday whether to sponsor the trail. 

In 2009, the board approved submitting a grant-in-aid trail application for an ATV trail connecting to existing trails at Fort Ripley and Pine Center. 

Staff is recommending the board agree to sponsor the trail, which has been approved by the DNR, pursuant to the Minnesota Trail Assistance program. 

The proposed 52.7-mile trail uses the county right of way — ditches and the road shoulder — as it cuts a loop through the southern part of the county. The trail project cost is estimated at $124,300 with a grant request of $94,195. The trail would be open from May to November. 

Crow Wing County would sponsor, operate, maintain and manage the trail in conjunction with three supporting ATV clubs: the Central Minnesota Wheelers ATV Association, the Pine Center Sportsman’s OHV Club, and the Central Lakes Riders OHV Club. 

It’s been one of the topics capable of filling the county board room to overflowing. At past meetings, people stood outside the board room with “vote no” signs or held the signs while seated in the  board room gallery. 

Trail supporters point to thousands of ATVs in the county and the economic potential of attracting riders here with a trail system. ATV enthusiasts said they need a place to ride and they note successful trail systems in Wisconsin.

Opponents who live along the proposed route say their peace and quiet and enjoyment of their own property shouldn’t be sacrificed for others’ gain. 

The issue has been confounding county boards for many years. In 2006, a proposal with a prospect of creating an ATV park on about 1,000 acres of tax-forfeited land, a former mine pit area south of Trommald in Irondale Township, was halted. 

Residents living in the area a expressed concerns about noise, traffic, property damage and safety. Township boards in the affected area talked about plans to curb ATV driving on township roads in response to the county’s proposal. 

In 2007, the board voted to explore the adoption of a county-wide trail system, noting expanded trail systems in neighboring counties and the possibility of making connections to them. 

During meetings, the Red Top Trail by Isle has often been used as an example and noise studies with surveys of residents were used to give a comparison. 

Julius and Donna Anderson have lived in the area now with the ATV trail for nearly 42 years. They used to hear the train whistle on the Soo Line before it became part of a trail system. 

“Sometimes it gets pretty loud, but everyone has been pretty respectful,” Donna Anderson said. The couple lives about 150 yards from the trail. The Andersons said the noise is there briefly as riders go by and is more noticeable when there is a large string of riders. 

Residents living closest to the Red Top Trail by the Andersons are seasonal and the trail itself winds through state-owned land that isn’t populated. The Andersons said not a lot of people are affected. If the trail was next to the house on the road, it may be noisier, Donna Anderson said. She said sometimes when the noise comes at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. it’s more disruptive, but she said the riders are having fun so it’s not an issue for them. 

Julius Anderson said the noise is more on the weekends and a holiday like the Fourth of July, but isn’t terribly bothersome and isn’t a problem as the trail is mostly through timber land. He laughed and said there isn’t much in the area but a bunch of Swedes. 

The Andersons own about 110 acres. Everybody in the area has four-wheelers, Julius Anderson said and the riders that come through do stick to the trail. Most park in Isle to get on the Soo Line Loop, he said. 

The proposed trail before the Crow Wing County Board Tuesday travels through the townships of Fort Ripley, St. Mathias, Daggett Brook, Platte Lake, Roosevelt, Garrison, Maple Grove, Nokay Lake, Oak Lawn, Long Lake, and the city of Brainerd. 

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at or 855-5852.