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County board approves opening large section of Gunflint Trail to ATV use

ATVs are currently allowed on sections of the Gunflint Trail - Photo by Rhonda Silence
ATVs are currently allowed on sections of the Gunflint Trail - Photo by Rhonda Silence

ATVs are now allowed to operate in a large section of the Gunflint Trail where they were previously banned.

Changes to the local ATV ordinance became official this morning during a meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners.
In June, the county’s seven-member planning commission voted 5-2 to open a large section of the Gunflint Trail to ATV use. This approval by the planning commission put the final decision in the hands of the county board.

After discussion from most of the commissioners and some county staff, in addition to one public comment during today’s meeting, the board agreed to open a majority of the Trail to ATV use.

Under the proposed changes to the ordinance, ATV use on the Gunflint would open from the start of the paved roadway in Grand Marais to the Mid-Trail area near County Road 92, a distance of approximately 40 miles.

Tim Nelson, the director of the land services department, presented the proposed changes to the ATV ordinance to the county board this morning. Nelson says there were a number of public comments that came in on this topic, with strong beliefs both in support of and against opening the Gunflint Trail to ATV use.

Local resident and a member of the Cook County ATV Club, John McClure, says the county should open the entire Gunflint Trail to ATV use, not just the lower two-thirds.

In response to opening the entire Gunflint Trail to ATV use, Nelson says the proposed amendments do not allow for an immediate opening of the entire Gunflint. Another public hearing would be required in order to consider opening the entire Trail, he added.

With that in mind, County Administrator Jeff Cadwell says the US Forest Service suggested the county not open the Gunflint to ATVs beyond Iron Lake due to some of the sensitivity of their roads beyond that section of the Trail.

Before a vote on the amendments to the ordinance took place, Commissioner Bobby Deschampe voiced his support for the ordinance and motorized recreation throughout the county, saying “there is enough room in this county for ATVs.”

Commissioner Dave Mills says he understands some of the safety concerns shared by the public when it comes to ATV use on the Gunflint Trail. Regardless, Mills says the amendments to the ordinance are a good solution to utilizing the Gunflint as a connector trail for more traditional gravel roads that intersect the paved roadway.

After discussion by the commissioners, the board voted 5-0 to open the Gunflint Trail to ATV use from Grand Marais to nearly 40 miles up the Trail.