Week 4: Trails Criteria
Prioritizing trail projects can mean many things. In the plan I see criteria that involve inclusivity, connectedness, partnering, coordinating with other groups and agencies, building on existing structures and opportunities, etc.
I see a lot of focus on attracting new users of parks and trails and that is good BUT we must do that in a way that retains the interest of those who are already there. I'd like to offer an example but then someone will just focus on my example and not on the principle. (hike, ATV, bike, horse, etc.)
I also see connectivity as a criteria - there are 2 kinds of connections being included - 1) connecting people to the out doors and 2) connecting facilities.
The first, "connecting people to the outdoors" is good and we'll probably all agree as good for everyone. The second, "connecting facilities" means very different things for different users. Some users, usually those that move at a slow pace (hikers, horses, mountain bikers, ..), want connectivity of trails so they can do their activity in routes within a relatively short distance - perhaps 2 to 40 miles. Other users, that move at a faster pace (bikers, ATV's, snowmobiles, ..), have a much larger range and like to be able to have routes that take them many miles - perhaps 25 - 100 miles.
When we start considering the "connectivity of facilities" we must be careful to not fall in the trap of "one fits all" or that a trail that connects one facility to another is a need for all users.
Partnering and Inclusivity criteria - there are likely to be several organizations that represent each of many user types. Some of these are very intensively organized and others somewhat less organized but a point here is that all user types need to be well represented and equally considered. Many of these organizations have a lot of resources (expertice, dollars, volunteers, etc.) to offer. Some groups have $'s generated from state required fees and other sources that are already being investing in facilities - the state horse pass (enacted with the support of horse riders) is an example. When prioritizing Legacy funds, leveraging Legacy funds with existing resources ( $'s, volunteers, etc.) should be a very positive consideration and attrack Legacy funds rather than thinking "that's already taken care of".
Ms Silence, I respect your opinion that only a small minority of idiots don't follow ATV trail rules but as far as I'm aware, there are no facts on Minnesota ATV riders to support your opnion. There are several studies in five western states and one in Wisconsin that do find that it is much much more than a small minority of idiots but instead the range is from 40-60% of ATV trail riders knowingly and intentionally ride off well marked trails when the know doing so violates trail rules. ATV advocates are entitled to their own opinions about the ATV culture but they are not entitled to their own facts. I have investigated the MDNR's Trail Ambassador Program and found that there is no data to support the conclusion that the Amabssaodor progam has any positive effect on incedents of off-trail riding violations. A check with ATV Enforcement Officers and MDNR Conservation Officers reveals that they seldom if ever get reports or referrals for enforcement from Trail Ambassadors. A review of citizen complaints of ATV off-trail violations to County Sheriffs and MDNR Enforcement Officers reveals that it is extremely difficult to apprehend and/or convict an ATV off-trail offender becuase the are long gone with no identifying evidence to trace the offender. Obtaining a license number from the ATV involved in an off-trail violation is extremely difficult and very few citizen complaints involve the observer having been able to record the license number. Again, I know you want to offer the best image you can of the ATV culture but the fact is, the image is poor and the facts don't support your contention that this is "a small minority of idiots".
Mr. Davis - I think this is the more appropriate place for me to respond as it seems to be for discussion & the other for comments to the DNR. Regarding your comment about disrespectufl riding -- "e.g. riding routinely off your trails, riding routinely in wetlands, riding routinely on designated non-motorized trails"
believe me, no one is more upset by this behavior than the majority of ATVers. We know there is a small minority of idiots that don't follow the rules. However, the majority of us are respectful and do our best to police the rowdy folks. That is why we've worked with the MN DNR to establish the Trail Ambassador program and why there are hundreds of volunteer youth ATV safety trainers that teach safe and ethical riding. The majority of riders are respectful and want to do the right thing - there just needs to be clear maps and signage where people know where to go. And, there needs to be a few more challenge areas like the Gilbert OHV Park where technical riders can practice. Having an area where high energy folks can ride cuts down on trail problems.
Please, if you see someone riding disrespectfully, contact the DNR! We pay registration & fuel taxes to support the OHV enforcement program because we don't want to see this irresponsible behavior either!
Motorized trails should not be funded by Legacy Trails funds. Unless, the funding is going toward increased enforcement efforts designed to protect the environment, other recreational trails, or other trail uses. This is the only way that trails funding meets the intent of the Legacy amendment (to protect, enhance, and restore).