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Hubbard County board takes input on ATV trails, logging

Public input at Tuesday' county board meeting included residents concerned about damage caused by ATVs, timber industry representatives addressing a proposed moratorium on pine thinning and an update on the Bemidji veterans' home.

The Hubbard County Board on Dec. 14 heard public comment by Cynthia McGrath and Robert McGrath of rural Akeley.

They claimed County Administrator Jeff Cadwell said he would not call for a committee to address issues with ATV trails, such as trail users causing ditch and culvert damage that local ATV clubs do not fully repair.

The McGraths said they sensed that public officials feel the tourism revenue justifies the costs of repairing the damage.

Later in the meeting, Cadwell said that what he told the McGraths was, “I would not recommend that that board take any action related to financial responsibility for ATV trails, not that we shouldn’t have a conversation about ATV trails and use and restrictions within the county.”

He recommended having highway engineer and public works coordinator Jed Nordin convene a group to identify potential trail routes, but not to discuss any county financial support for the trails.

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Cadwell added, “We really want the state to take responsibility or claim ownership” regarding state grant-in-aid trails.

Commissioner David De La Hunt agreed that the county needs to hear from stakeholders about how it can address concerns about the ATV trails without spending money – for example, when and where to allow users to drive on the shoulder or prohibit using the ditch.

“Just doing nothing, I don’t think is a solution anymore,” he said.

Pine thinning

Commissioners also heard comments by Ray Higgins with the Minnesota Timber Producers Association and Andy Craner with PotlatchDeltic, both concerning a proposed moratorium on pine thinning.

Higgins stressed that Minnesota’s forests are well managed, with the logging industry growing three times as much wood as it harvests. He also pointed out that although the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources suggested the moratorium, they don’t plan to delay pine thinning on their own lands.

Craner expressed doubts about the DNR’s concern regarding bark beetles. “We believe that thinning the pines in this area, with the beetles, would actually be better. It’ll leave more moisture for the other trees,” he said.. “We believe that’s the safe, better path.”

Later in the meeting, county land commissioner Mark "Chip" Lohmeier advised the board to take no action on the DNR’s proposed pine thinning delays for private property.

Lohmeier said the DNR modified its recommendations, advising property managers to follow slash management guidelines during the thinning process, such as reducing slash size to 3 inches or smaller or removing it to prevent a buildup of bark beetles from spreading to other trees.

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Lohmeier said his department will monitor slash management and check for bark beetle buildup in county-managed pine forests.

Veterans’ home

Scotty Allison, Beltrami County veterans service officer, and legislative liaison Joe Vene presented an update on the new veterans’ home being built on the Sanford Health campus in Bemidji.

Noting that Hubbard County kicked in $50,000 for the more than $40 million project, Allison said construction is underway and expected to be completed in August 2023.

He said the facility will fill up immediately and have a waiting list, employing 130 people and housing 72 residents, including veterans, some spouses and gold star parents.

Vene called Bemidji a strategic location to serve a region where many veterans have to travel three or four hours for services.

The next county board meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 21 in the third-floor board room at the Hubbard County Government Center.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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