Recreation trails seeing increased damage

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An increased amount on trail damage has been seen locally in recent weeks. 

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Spring is here! The snow is gone, the temperatures are getting warmer, and people are gearing up to hit the trails.  After a long and isolated winter, people are feeling the need to venture out on the trails to unwind, explore, ride, and yes even mud.

Well, unfortunately doing just that has caused serious trail damage to the area’s trails that are currently closed. In recent weeks, an increased amount of trail damage has been observed in the county due to illegal out-of-season use during spring break up. This use is unacceptable and needs to end, or we all will lose what took so much time and hard work to develop.  

Using closed trails this time of year increases damage due to ruts, erosion, and significant impacts to the trails which then adds to extensive repair costs. The additional time and expenses are outside of what local recreational clubs have set for their annual maintenance goals.  Some users may think, “I am just going to go out for a quick ride, I won’t hurt anything”, but once that track is made, it invites others.  That one ride has now turned to five then to twenty which in turn causes even more cumulative damage. If you feel a need to get out, only consider an activity and trail system that is open for use and won’t cause damage, and be aware that our local mountain bike trails and ATV trails are currently closed.

Trail damage is occurring on a variety of local trail systems. The Tioga Recreation Area is seeing damage as noted by the Grand Rapids and Itasca Mountain Bike Association (GRIMBA), who maintains the trail. Riders are going around signs and orange fencing blocking off the trail. 

Local ATV trails are seeing negative impacts as well.  Local ATV Clubs are reporting that trail use and damage has become an increasing problem. Most of Itasca County’s ATV/OHM Trails are open from May 15th to November 1st and it may be a later opening based on spring trail conditions. The Mesabi Bike Trail along the Taconite Snowmobile Trail is experiencing ATV use and damage, especially from the Itasca County Fairgrounds to Bovey.  

It should be noted that, outside of the snowmobile season, only non-motorized vehicle use is authorized along the Mesabi Bike Trail corridor. Also note that the Taconite Snowmobile Trail is only open to ATVs where authorized (such as where a designated Grant-in-Aid ATV/OHM Trail already exists) from May 15 through November 1 and if trail conditions permit. 

Local non-profit clubs and volunteers work hard to maintain local trail systems, a lot of dedicated work and limited funding goes into keeping these trails for the public to use.  Many trail users don’t understand that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent by grant dollars to build area recreational trails with limited annual maintenance funds.  Additionally, area trails wouldn’t be here without the cooperation and permissions from local landowners as most trails fall upon multiple landownerships needing agreements to cross these lands. 

If irresponsible trail use and damage continue to occur, it could severely impact the future existence of local trails as these agreements can be terminated by the landowner. 

Bottom line

Please stay off the trails until the season opens and look out for later openings.  Follow trail opening and closure dates and watch for trail closure signs and gates posted. Get updated information and education on a specific trail by contacting your local clubs, the County Land Department or local Minnesota DNR office. Most importantly, please do your part as a responsible trail steward. Help preserve trails and enhance your recreational experience by respecting where you are riding.

Contact the Itasca County Land Department at (218) 327-2855 for trail information. Contact GRIMBA for Tioga trail conditions, and/or visit the DNR Parks and Trails website at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/ohv/closures.html for more trail information.

This article originally ran on grandrapidsmn.com.

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