Thursday, January 11, 2007

Road Whiners

Cook County's atv'rs are lobbying the county board for permission to ride atv's on county roads. They cite equal treatment to support their requests for uninhibited use of roads and access to almost anywhere in the county. Most conservationists and environmentalists have a legitimate reflexive negative response to such proposals. Some county residents are petitioning county board members to exclude their roads from atv riding in an understandable not in my back yard reaction. Regardless of how this turns out, this will not be the last series of demands from atv'rs.

Of late, Minnesota, especially all across the northern part of the state, has seen unrelenting pressure from atv'rs and snowmobilers for trails, regardless of the impact they may have on the environment or on those who want to enjoy the simple pleasures of a quiet forest. The motor sports enthusiasts are quickly outraged if they do not get their way. They have made clear what they want - unrestricted riding privileges. Those of us who are not motor sports enthusiasts, the acknowledged majority of Minnesotans, are just as clear in what we want - the quiet enjoyment of the forest.

If a peaceful North Shore and Cook County seems to be what the county's and Minnesota's quiet majority wants; why can't they get it? Mainly because of the political clout the motor sports side has, disproportionate to their numbers. It is much easier to organize those in favor of a special interest, no matter how obnoxious most of the world finds it, than it is to build a coalition of disparate people who may not otherwise be natural allies to oppose it. When you add to the mix an industry with deep pockets - the atv and snowmobile manufacturers - it is an uphill struggle for the opponents.

The real problem with the atv'rs demands for unlimited riding on county roads is that it is a major step in the industry's push to link together a vast network of legal and illegal trails across the state. Right now, in Cook County, there are numerous logging trails that atvs can legally travel. Often, however, they are not linked. The county road system provides that connection. The end result will be a system of trails that allow atv users to assault the senses of all who do not share their desire for noise and destruction of the north woods quiet. The north woods experience will soon come to mean an incessant undercurrent of whining engines or the roar of the typical all out atv cavalcade.

Once the network is in place, Cook County residents should anticipate the county being promoted as a destination for atv enthusiasts for rallies, races, and rendezvous. Peace and quiet no more.

Are there good decent people who abide by the laws who ride atv's? Absolutely! And most atv'rs fall within that category. Does the atv enthusiast demographic contain more than its fair share of scofflaws with little regard for nature, their neighbors, or the quiet of the woods? Without a doubt.

The problem for atv'rs is that they are all tarred with the same brush. Experience has shown, however, that is because, even when they have the best of intentions, they've taken up a "sport" that invites the destruction of the north woods and the place it holds in the hearts of all of Minnesotans - a place that symbolizes peace, quiet, and the simple enjoyment of nature. Most may abide by all the rules, but until they get serious about getting rid of the bad apples, and until the manufacturers stop promoting speed and the tearing up the land (just look at the ads and the billboards), until they themselves start redressing the damage they have done, and until they start, as a group, showing respect for others, the best that can be said for the "good", is that they do less damage than the bad. The atv ethic not only tolerates, but encourages, in too many cases, the destruction of the land and the disruption of what should be the natural peace of the forest.

In view of the history of the whole of them, it is unconscionable to even consider allowing atv'rs the unfettered privilege to travel the county roads. It will likely lead to a vast, interconnected trail system that will end the peace of the woods as we now know it.

Regrettably, our politicians at the Cook County Board are likely to roll over once again, and the atv'rs will, in turn, simply roll over the whole of Cook County. Like spoiled children the atv'rs want it all; and like weak and spineless parents, the county board is likely to give in to them, thinking that will satisfy their greed. We all know it won't; they will be back for more and more.

It used to be said that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. In this case its likely to be the whiners get the woods.



ATVer said...

I completely and totally disagree with your position on this issue. You are incorrect that the majority of Minnesotans oppose these type of ATV rules. The average ATVer is very close to the same person as the average Minnesotan, even more so in out state and especially in northern Minnesota. The average ATVer is very concerned about the environment and conservation practices. The ATVers I know who use their machines for recreation are here for just what you refer to as quiet enjoyment of the forest. They go out of their way to keep it that way for themselves and everyone around. You try to paint even the best of ATVers as destructive and disruptive. This belief is completely untrue and can only come from someone who is very uninformed of the real world of ATVing. ATVs actually cause less damage to roads and surfaces than nearly any other vehicle, including bycicles, horses and street legal vehicles. The ATVs I'm familiar with have only 2 to 5 pounds of pressure in their tires. Check your high school physics teacher if you don't believe it. They are designed to travel over ground, not through it. They do not make any more noise than any other motorized vehicle that would be using the same roads. This does not even begin to cover all the un-recreational reasons that ATVs should be able to use all county roads. ATVs are more mobile and take up less room than standard vehicles and therefore present a smaller threat of accident than a full size vehicle on a county road. I would venture to guess that most informed people living on rural county roads in Cook County do support the use of ATVs on all county roads.

Anonymous said...

I believe the true ' whiner' has spoken. Enough said.

True North said...

Thank you for taking the time to comment. We at True very much appreciate and understand the sincerity of your position, but we disagree with your contentions as much as you do with ours.

From a conservation or environmental perspective, the concern is not ATVs riding on paved or gravel roads, the concern is that unfettered privileges to ride on those roads gives you too easy of access to forest trails, legal and illegal, and it is in riding those trails that the damage is done. The destruction is bad enough by those good citizen riders who are just naive or inattentive; it is downright devastating by those who are malicious. And, there are more than enough malicious ATVers to create problems for everyone.

We agree that the average ATVer is very concerned about the environment and conservation practices; our contention, with no intent to be sarcastic, is that their worry is often only from the perspective of not liking the restrictions such concerns place on them. Real interest in conservation or the environment would have you abandoning your machines.

The best ATVers are not intentionally destructive -the sport they pursue is. Are we to suppose you are simply unaware of the damage you do when riding through a wetland or engaging in mudding? Are you blind to what the passage of ATV after ATV does to the forest floor? Or do you simply feel, as a group, that it is your right or duty to tear things up on public land?

To say that in riding your noisy, and in our opinion noxious machines, you are pursuing the quiet of the forest is simply a ludicrous reposition of reality on its head. Are you saying you can only really enjoy the quiet by making a lot of noise?

Is an ATV noisy, destructive of the forest, ruinous to wetlands, and antithetical to the very idea of peaceful enjoyment? Clearly it is all of these and more.

There is a legal expression, res ipsa loquitur, the thing speaks for itself, and in this case your ATV speaks louder than your words.


MN mountain biker said...

I continue to be astounded by the disinformation the atvers are spreading while they complain the same is being done to them. What thinking person believes a 4-600 pound machine with a 200 pound person and 40-80 or more horse power does less damage to the environment than a bicycle? An average cross country bicycle weights less than 30 pounds and the average bicyclist is 150 pounds. The average cyclist who rides regularily can generate 1/4 of a horse power in a sustained effort, pro cyclists can generate 1/2 horse power and in a sprint up to 2 horse power. You don't have to have passed high school physics, just use your common sense or maybe ride a bike once in a while. Try to ride a bike through the 30 foot long mud holes created by the environmentalist atvers that exist on many off road routes in Cook County and you will understand how off the wall their claims are.

When I get the chance to ride in new places in Cook County, I am always appalled by the continual spread of atv impacts all over the county on fire roads and the new trails created by the atvers, including the tracks of and the atvers I see on the county roads despite the fact that it is currently illegal to ride atvs there. Sure atvs do little damage if they are used only on hard surfaces but as True North stated they are regularly ridden in soft areas and over brush and small trees. If they are given legal access to the county roads the impact will spread exponentially.

If the atvers take over the county like they want, the current quiet sports economy will disappear to be replaced by the constant wine of internal combustion engine. Hopefully the residents and businesses will be able to fight off this destructive onslaught of politics controlled by big money. I hope the county commissioners have the guts to stand up to the pressure and restore my belief that local politicians are some of the few you can trust to listen to their whole constituency, not a loud, pushy, well moneyed minority.

Thanks True North for giving me the opportunity to respond with out having to worry about the mean retribution typical from the recreational atv promoters.

Anonymous said...

"There is a legal expression, res ipsa loquitur, the thing speaks for itself, and in this case your ATV speaks louder than your words."

Actually, I can talk over an ATV rather easily. I can talk over an ATV more simply than other people.
(I post anonymously because the registration for blogger is annoying, and just another I'll forget and have to redo)

Anonymous said...


You had me laughing with this piece. You concluded, "It used to be said that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. In this case its likely to be the whiners get the woods."

When the Izaak Walton League, the Sierra Club North Star Chapter, Wilderness Watch and the Northeastern Minnesotas for Wilderness sued the DRN to stop the Tilbury Tril reroute was the whining?

And are those same groups whining as they try to establish a buffer zone around the BWCA?

When Harbor Friends started addressing marina concerns to the City of Grand Marais, was that whining?

When the hockey club and the skateboard park kids started working with the County to remodel the Community Center area, was that whining?

What about the Tennis club requesting the tennis courts be transferred to County ownership from ISD 166. Is that whining?

What about the involved parents who addressed concerns with ISD 166 and created Great Expectations and Cedar Grove. Were they whiners?

I suspect that you and others are whining about the ATVer's because someone else is effectively petitioning, speaking up, and championing thier cause within the system. Are you moaning and graoning and whining because a group outside of your interests is effectively using the same tools as your favorite groups use?

Tru, quit whining.
Val Littfin

Rhonda Silence said...

Sorry, Anonymous, I don't buy it. I may believe your "30-foot mud bog" rhetoric if you signed your name. I would love to know where this is.
The Cook County ATV Club is working very hard to ensure that incidents like this do not take place. At the county board meeting almost a year ago when the ATV Club asked the county to consider an ordinance (and at which the committee was appointed - and then reported in local media), a Lutsen resident complained about an area of abuse. The ATV Club itself contacted Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Conservation Officers Darin Fagerman and Mary Manning to ask them to monitor the area. Problem solved.
Instead of writing about these supposed areas of abuse anonymously on an internet blog, how about contacting a Cook County ATV Club member or the local DNR CO?
I'm sure the reason is because there are no such areas. On ATV rides last summer, groups of 5-10 riders rode different routes on 12 rides - we never encountered mountain bikers or hikers. We did once encounter a guy in an old Bronco.
When we back-tracked, we couldn't even see tracks from where we had ridden.
We rode in Tofte, Grand Marais, the Gunflint Trail, and from the Gunflint Trail to the Grand Portage lodge. Did you see us? Did we disturb your enjoyment of the Forest?
We rode on forest roads, county roads, and a handful of trails.
The ATV issue is getting blown all out of proportion. There are only a few hundred ATV Club members and the folks that come to Cook County to ride are the people who already know and love the North Shore.
On one ride we met the quintessential ATVer - a mid30s couple, who have visited Cook County to hike the Superior Hiking Trail, to X-C Sugarbush & they were back for their 3rd visit to the county, to ride their ATVs. They expressed frustration at the existing Forest Service map & asked us where they could ride.
That's all we want to do - establish where ATVs can be ridden. Yes, opening the county roads will create some links with Forest Roads. Yes, it will create some loops. That is what the ATV Club has wanted all along, it's never been a secret.
Right now, ATVs can ride in the ditches (through cattails & other sensitive areas) and just about anywhere. It's wide open NOW.
We want to open roads to create those loops to create riding opportunities that will keep riders from riding on the hiking trails or other areas where they don't belong.
The roads are already open to the larger side-by-side ATVs, as of January 1, 2007. Isn't it silly to not allow the smaller 4-wheelers to ride the roads like all other vehicles?
Let's please stop the rhetoric and inflammatory comments and be reasonable. ATVs are just another vehicle, just another way to get out & enjoy the woods.
Rhonda Silence
Cook County ATV Club Secretary

True North said...

The whining, as in Road Whiners referred to the sound of the ATVs, not to the ATVers. ATVs whine, and no one can deny that.

The ATVers are engaged in the political process and are doing a good job of flexing their political muscle. No complaint there - and certainly no whine, at least not from True. It is great that ATVers are engaged; it is the ends they seek that are the issue, along with the exponential increase in damage that will likely result if those ends are achieved.

We have yet to see any sort of response to the fundamental questions posed regarding damage to the environment even by the best of the ATVers. Tell us please, how do you run an ATV in the woods, not on paved or graveled trails, and not cause harm? And how do you do that day after day and machine after machine and not cause utter destruction? Or does that not matter?


Shannon M. Ritchey said...

For crying out loud people (you that are against the ATVers). You don't want them on trails, you don't want them on county roads, you don't want them anyplace you can hear them, see them, see their tracks... For pete's sake should we just call up ATV companies and say so sorry there are no more places to ride left in this country you can't make ATVs anymore. You have gotten a bike trail up the ENTIRE North Shore, which while it is a nice idea, there were A LOT better things that the money could have been spent on. You have an ENTIRE BWCA that is totally motor free. In addition you have hundred of miles of trails all over the state in state parks that are motor free. What the hell more do you want? You CANNOT have everything! COMPROMISE people, why can’t the two sides sit down and figure out solutions that work for both. Neither side is going to “win” here, isn’t that obvious! You have to make some concessions to the other side. Hey, I have an idea for those of you who go “up north” to find peace and quiet. Put your effort someplace that really needs it- help clean up the cities of MPLS/St. Paul to make THEM more peaceful. By the way, I don’t even have an ATV and I’ve never even been on one, but I am a reasonable human being!!!!!!

Shannon M. Ritchey
East side of Saint Paul, MN

Anonymous said...

Comment to the phrase "Tell us please, how do you run an ATV in the woods, not on paved or graveled trails, and not cause harm? And how do you do that day after day and machine after machine and not cause utter destruction? Or does that not matter?"
The ATVers are asking permission to run mostly on existing gravel roads and logging roads...not to blaze through the woods willy nilly. A hiker can also damage the woods by going off I've seen along many river hiking trails here, where the ground is eroded away from loss of ground cover due to people leaving the trails. We have plenty of open land in Cook County , there is room for all.
A person can't preach about destruction unless they start fixing it with themselves. Walk, don't drive. Solar power, no electricity. On and on... Many things we do contribute to "utter destruction". Untill you've eliminated them from your own life don't worry about what the rest of us are doing. We're not worried about you. At least we didn't think we were, untill you decided to try to limit our rights to enjoy the land. I hike, I snowmobile, I ATV, I jetski, I boat, I swim, I enjoy My Home in all the ways I can.

Rhonda Silence said...

I feel like I'm banging my head on the wall. The answer is - OPEN the roads! ATVs are not going to hurt a road, whether it is a county, DNR, or Forest Service road. There are a few loops that could be created by using the snowmobile trails, but that could only be done where the trails are high & dry, which according to Tom Peterson, of the Two Harbors Division of Trails & Waterways, the majority of Cook County snowmobile trails are.
Cross-country travel is illegal & should be. When there is a well-established, mapped, system of trails (primarily roads), it will be easier for law enforcement - county, state, & federal to enforce the law & to punish the folks who are riding where they shouldn't ride.
The people that are so frightened of the damage caused by an ATV trail system should visit the Moosewalk ATV trails in the Silver Bay/Finland area. The DNR, Lake County, & the area clubs have done an excellent job creating trails that are safe, environmentally sound, and fun! There are picnic shelters, hard-packed paths through maple forests, rest-stops at scenic vistas. And culverts and sturdy & attractive bridges over streams. It can be done.
As to "day-to-day" destruction, again, I refer you to Moose Walk. When the trails are wet & rutting starts to occur, the Silver Bay/Finland Club (the Wrinkle Riders) fix it, by filling low spots with sturdy pea gravel. They also close trails when it becomes too wet.
Also, for the folks freaking out over the noise & smell of ATVs. ATVs have virtually no exhaust fumes (you're thinking 2-stroke snowmobiles & boat motors). When used as a primary vehicle on roads (like I would like to do to ride to work) they are more fuel efficient & more environmentally friendly than the average car.
And the noise, if not tinkered with, is minimal. You don't hear an ATV for more than a few hundred feet -- unless the rider messes with his/her machine to make it louder. Also illegal. Also something the Cook County ATV Club discourages.
Taking care of our beautiful north country does matter. We are trying to do our part.
There are bigger issues - DNR land sales, failing septic systems, lead shot & tackle killing loons & eagles - not to mention underfunded schools, uninsured kids, food shelf needs, ect. to deal with. Let's move on.

drjohnson said...

This blog should be named True BS, The True demise of Cook County are Tree huggers ect. they have tramppled the trails,eroded tree roots, stomped to death trail flora,coated rocks with canoe residue, I think its time for them to move to another region to ruin. Thanks for your detruction. A 4th generation resident.

True North said...

It is not on the roads that people are concerned about, it is off the road travel and behaviour. Even the ATV industry's patron saint Pawlenty can't seem to drive one safely or obey the law.


True North said...


Actually, we had thought of using the name True BS, and I had argued strongly in favor of it before the True North board of directors, but I lost out narrowly on a vote of 11 in favor and 12 against. I think that name may still be available and we would be very happy to collaborate with you on establishing a blog so named.

Just let us know how we can be of assistance.

fastjerry said...

sorry Rhonda, atvs should NOT be allowed on the roads until they can meet the same safety standards and requirements of street legal vehicles. In 1985 the state legislature removed atvs from DPS licensing, effectively making them illegal on public roads and until they license them again I say no way.
One big problem here is liability: who will pay the freight when one of those things flips or loses control or otherwise fails or causes an accident for reasons related to its non road safe design?
As to the off road concerns: an atv is a 100 ft diameter vehicle when it comes to sound, ie. it is surrounded by a 100 ft circle of an 80 dB noise wall, and its pollution trail is as long as any ride they go on even considering the most efficient 4 stroke engines available; you will get rid of these arguments when you introduce an all electric model.
You doubted another writer commenting on the long mud sloughs created, well I have them on my property too and I will remain anonymous as well, I don't want others tramping around my place but I may post some pics sometime.
For those that would claim atvs less impacting than a bicycle I say: you must have had lousy high school physics teachers. My own calculations, supported by engineers and physicists that I know, suggest at least a 40 to 80 fold greater impact by an atv vs a mtn bike; continuously saying otherwise with your incomplete calculations does not make them true.
I am new to this blog but I have read all the atv posts, many filled with statements and claims too stupid to respond to. However, I believe we will all hear them again and I will respond when they are repeated.