Letter: Many concerns with proposed off-road vehicle trail
The Feb. 1 Enterprise ran an article about a proposed Border to Border (B2B) off-road vehicle (ORV) trail stretching from Wisconsin to North Dakota across the northern third of Minnesota. Astute readers who saw me in the front page picture may have wondered: "Why is John Weber looking perplexed?"
Here are just a few of the many reasons I would give to answer that question.
Points of interest: Conventional roads for conventional vehicles already serve them. Can we really afford to duplicate these existing transportation routes which already have underfunded maintenance issues?
Forest roads: "Minimal impact" (a phrase used by the proposers) can only be truly achieved by keeping the trail out of forests as much as possible.
ATVs or dual-sport motorcycles: How will they be kept out of non-designated trail segments? By signs easily ignored by those who feel they only apply to others?
Minimum maintenance roads: A big feature of the proposed B2B trail. I certainly feel they would be put in jeopardy by unleashing additional traffic looking for adventure, not truly slower, safer driving speeds. Further, I doubt it will be as easy to fund and fix road damage as the ORV proposers claim.
Spurs: The impacts of the "main" trail are bad enough. A proliferation of "designated" spurs only compounds an already negative situation. What about "rogue spurs" created by drivers seeking more adventure?
Invasive species: Volunteer "trail ambassadors" supposedly will be trained to monitor their spread. Why? The largely unpaved ORV trails are prime corridors for spreading invasives. Do we need another avenue for promoting their spread? Spraying and mowing trailsides where invasives are detected will further put pressures on pollinators that already have more issues than they can contend with.
Pristine Mississippi River: Ironic that just the day before the B2B "listening" session, the MN MPCA released the first comprehensive study of its upper stretch. The MPCA deemed the river starts as pristine, but becomes tainted by the time it reaches St. Cloud. The B2B trail should stay clear of Itasca State Park and the Mississippi River.
Muscles vs. motors: Many health studies clearly demonstrate that regular, physical activity using our muscles leads to longer, healthier lives. Given the current uncertainty of what will be the future U.S. "health care system," why promote a largely sedentary activity that the ORV trail would encourage leading away from healthier lives?
Bottom line: Though I could raise many other concerns that prompted my perplexed look, the proposed Border to Border (B2B) trail is "eco-terrorism" in the guise of "eco-tourism." It would promote noise, soil erosion, invasive species, road damage, wildlife disturbances and a larger carbon footprint, among many ills. Also, it very likely could displace other recreation forms that literally tread more lightly on the earth.