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Round River trail maintenance split between groups

Nels, left, and Caden Kramer take down brush in front of trail signage. The Timberland Dirt Devils and Paul Bunyan Trailriders will share trail duties after June. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

By Jean Ruzicka

Maintenance of ATV trails in the Paul Bunyan State Forest has been split, with Highway 34 the dividing line.

The Timberland Dirt Devils all-terrain vehicle club will maintain trails on east side of the highway; the Paul Bunyan Trailriders the west, according to a decision reached by the two clubs and the Department of Natural Resources.

This now goes before the clubs’ sponsors - Hubbard County Commissioners giving the Dirt Devils the nod, the Akeley Council endorsing the Trailriders.

“It’s not a slam dunk yet,” David Schotzko, area supervisor for DNR Parks and Trails, said of the conclusion. Language was being drafted this week to be presented to the two governmental entities.

The actual number of trail miles in the state forest is similar for both clubs, roughly 25 miles, Schotzko said. But the Trailriders will be responsible for more miles of minimum maintenance roads and rights-of way.

“It was a tough decision,” he said, “but a good problem to have. Both sides wanted to take it all on. We’re fortunate to have these volunteers,” Schotzko said of their caliber and energy. “It will benefit all the ATV riders coming up here.

“I’m happy to have come to this conclusion.”

The issue arose in October, when Akeley area’s two ATV clubs arrived at the county board meeting, both vying for sponsorship and subsequent grant-in-aid funding to maintain the trails.

Steve Werner spoke on behalf of the Timberland Dirt Devils; Nels Kramer, who’d coined the Paul Bunyan-inspired Round River Trail name, represented the Paul Bunyan Trailriders.

The Dirt Devils received the nod; Akeley Paul Bunyan ATV Trailriders got the ax.

The Trailriders then approached the Akeley Council for sponsorship, who agreed.

Schotzko recommended the Trailriders, based on members’ experience and equipment.

But DNR officials agreed the best approach would be to “put both clubs’ energy to use,” and worked toward a resolution.

“The highway is a major landmark,” Schotzko said. “It’s an easy split,” he said of avoiding confusion as to domain.

Schotzko was concerned with a new club – the Dirt Devils – being “overwhelmed” with issues such as the signing policy and trail repair.

Under the proposed agreement, the Trailriders will receive $15,000 in grant-in-aid funding, the Dirt Devils $10,000. “Nobody walks away empty handed. It’s good to put everyone to work. I hate to turn away volunteers.”

The Trailriders’ current contract runs through June 30. Members of the club were out on the trail this week readying the miles for the season ahead.