Specific northern trail blazing

Proposed ORV route tailored to certain vehicle types

Jesse White via  Mesabi Daily News  Minn.

If you are interested in what the new Border to Boarder (B2B) Off-Road Vehicle Trail (ORV) is going to be – and not going to be – you might want to attend one of two “listening” sessions on the project set for our area.

The first session is Monday at the Blandin Foundation at 11 North Pokegema Avenue in Grand Rapids. The second will be Thursday, Feb. 16, at the American Legion in Orr.

Both meetings run from 6 to 8 p. m. and are open to the public.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources – which is coordinating the planning of B2B along with the Minnesota 4 Wheel Drive Association (the group that came up with the idea) and National Off-Road Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC) – announced the project last summer.

Organizers hope to create a 400-mile ORV route from the shores of Lake Superior to the border of North Dakota. The plan, as it stands now, is to use existing public right-of-ways and minimum maintenance roadways or trails for highway-licensed, high clearance vehicles.

Trail planners want to work with local communities to identify connections to local communities; significant natural, cultural, and historic areas of interest; out of the way restaurants; and locations for technical riding areas as part of the planning for the route.

Thus the reason for the meetings.

I won’t be attending either session, as I don’t really support of the project. I think it is a slap in the face to the residents who live in northern Minnesota and own ATVs and side-by-side utility vehicles and that it is another case of folks from the Twin Cities looking to create a playground in our backyard.

I don’t have anything against ORV owners and enthusiasts but I think it’s a little odd that while organizers have touted this plan as an opportunity for a safe family friendly ORV route across the state they mostly been quiet on a restriction that keeps ATVs and side-by-sides out of the mix.

For those who don’t know – and I think there are plenty out there since a local ATV salesman used the trail in his pitch to sell me a side-by-side last year – this route will be closed to vehicles under 2,000 pounds.

It’s specifically tailored to 4×4 jeeps and light trucks.

Perhaps part of the confusion is most people don’t understand the differences between off-road, off-highway, and all terrain – all terms to describe backwoods toys of various sizes and styles.

To the average person off-road is off-road.

Personally, I think by keeping the situation cloudy is purpose driven. Maybe organizers don’t want to delay the project by having to get certain routes re-classified or maybe they don’t want to invest in building new trails to accommodate ATV and OHV type traffic.

When I stared researching this project on the Internet for this column I could only find one reference to the ATV restriction in one of the dozens of news stories I read. I couldn’t find any reference to the 2,000-pound restriction on the DNR’s web site.

I finally found the information under the frequently asked questions section of the NOHVCC web site (www.NOHVCC.org).

Why is that?

Again, I don’t think organizers want to advertise that. They are selling this to the area as a tourism trap for off roaders – but just certain types of off roaders like the kind that belong to the Minnesota 4 Wheel Drive Association.

If you remember from earlier in this column, they are the bunch that came up with this idea.

Just for your information the MN4WDA is located in Bloomington. And while I’m sure they have members from northern Minnesota, all of their membership meetings take place in the St. Paul area. Their convention is the Twin Cities area. And on their website, www.mn4wda.com they offer a list of links to places to shop for parts and pieces and equipment – all of which are located in the Twin Cities except for the Trail’s End Lodge in Gilbert.