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CDC not authorized to set ATV use

After much discussion and several amendments, the St. Croix County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution that determined the Community Development Committee does not have the authority to allow all terrain vehicles on a county trail.

The board passed a resolution by a 12-7 margin after Linda Luckey offered up an attachment that set up a number of steps that must be complied with before ATVs would be allowed on Wildwood Trail from Woodville south to the county line. Luckey's amendment squeaked by on a 10-9 vote.

An attempt to introduce an amendment to change the wording of the original amendment fell to an 11-8 defeat.

The action did not sit well with CDC Chairman Steve Hermsen.

"I feel like my committee is under attack for something that is out of order with our bylaws," he said. "We need to encourage multi use on the trail."

ATVs were specifically banned on the seven-mile trail in a resolution to adopt the county outdoor recreation plan in 2006.

However, a growing interest in recreational ATV interest prompted a request from enthusiasts in the county.

"The number of ATVs in the county is higher than snowmobiles (which are allowed on the trail in the winter). What would happen if we used that same mindset to outlaw snowmobiles," he said.

Supervisor Lorin Sather said the committee had received a petition with more than 1,000 signatures from ATV groups asking for access.

"I got four objections to ATV use and 30 or 40 calls, emails and letters in favor," Sather said.

Both Sather and Hermsen said they didn't own an ATV or intend to ride one on the trail.

In a March 22 memo to the board from Supervisor Buzz Marzolf, a member of the CDC, he said that of the calls and letters he had received in recent weeks; "the ratio of those against ATV use on the Wildwood Trail to those in favor has been just over 2:1."

Supervisor Buck Malick said, "I am deeply distressed by the division among us that has arisen from this issue. It's not the first time I have thought about ATVs on this trail."

"I say with the greatest respect, it would be a mistake to use significant staff resources to investigate the suitability of ATVs on this trail. I don't think the county is ready for this," he said.

Wildwood history

The Wildwood Trail is a seven-mile off-road hiking, biking and snowmobiling trail on a former railroad right of way, which runs from Woodville south the St. Croix County line through the town of Eau Galle. The county purchased the railroad grade from the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway Company in 1970.

Since 1971, the county has signed, groomed, fenced and otherwise maintained the trial as a multi-use recreation trail open to the public. An improvement plan was developed in 1995 and improvements were completed in 2001.

In 1972, the county appropriated $210,000 in tax levy for trail developments and improvements.

A 1991 ordinance stated the vehicle traffic on the trial "shall be restricted to authorized vehicle only."

The January 2006 resolution to adopt a county outdoor recreational plan updated the previous plan of 2000. The update included a provision that stated, "Motorized vehicles traffic, including four-wheel drive and all-terrain vehicles, on the trail is prohibited to prevent damage to the trail surface."

A memo from Greg Timmerman, corporate counsel, on March 30, in response to members of the Community Development Committee's opinion that the CDC has authority to allow ATV use on the trail, said, "It is my opinion that the CDC does not possess the authority to allow ATV use of Wildwood Trail. Only the county board has the authority to make that decision."