Monday, March 27, 2006

Winter Tracks Get New Co-Chairpersons

This past winter's Winter Track chairpersons, Bob and Marti Marchino have decided to step down. The consensus of the Winter Tracks committee members is that the Marchinos did a great job and it was due to their leadership that this year's event was such a success.

John and Barbara Bottger, Hungry Jack Lake, were selected by the Winter Tracks Committee as next years chairpersons. With John's retirement, the Bottger moved to Hungry Jack Lake a few years ago. However, they are no strangers to the Gunflint Trail, Barbara's family have owned a summer home on Hungry Jack for some fifty years.

March 1 through March 4 has been selected as the dates for next years event.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Another New Gunflint Trail Blog

The Kerfoots, owners of Gunflint Lodge, began developing their blog in November of 2005 and their first entry appeared in January of 2006. The blog is named, interestingly enough, Gunflint Lodge and contributors include; Lee and Eva Kerfoot, Sue Kerfoot and John Silliman. The focus of the blog is events and what is happening around the lodge and Gunflint Lake.

For those of you who are counting there are now seven Gunflint Trail and BWCA blogs on the web- Gunflint Lodge, The Edge, Boundary Waters Blog, BWCAW Blog , Gunflint Trail History, Heston's Nature Notes, BWCA Blog and Trail Center.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Johnson Now Opposes ATVs on Gunflint Trail

County commissioner Jim Johnson announce at the Gunflint Scenic Byways Committee meeting March 20, that he no longer supports opening the Gunflint Trail to ATV use. According to Johnson that the residents and businesses on Trail have told him "loud and clear" that they did not believe that ATVs on the Gunflint would be a good idea. According to Johnson, after listened to their concerns, "my positions on opening the GunflintTrail to ATVs has evolved and I no longer support opening the Trail to ATVs.

The Scenic Byways Committee then when on to vote to oppose opening the Gunflint to ATVs and to send a letter to all County commissioners express the Committees position.

In Commissioner Johnson's most recent commissioners newsletter issued on March 25 he re-states this position as follows;

ATV’s: This topic has been discussed extensively at recent County Board
Meetings. Using trails in the backwoods would be enhanced if loops could be
established, so the idea of using remote county roads as connectors has come up.
There is some support for this, but the use of the Gunflint Trail and other
heavily traveled county roads does not have much support. There is much concern
about the misuse of ATV’s, but using them as a hauling tool around private
property has general acceptance. There is also opposition to opening the North
Shore State Snowmobile Trail to ATV’s. The County Board has taken no action. I
think we need to find more common ground before we make any

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Commissioner Johnson Modifies Stand Slightly on ATVs on County Roads including the Trail.

Don Lease from Road Lake email to Johnson opposing atvs on Gunflint Trail received the following email response- ( Johnson's original position)

Original Message -----
From: Bev and Jim Johnson
To: Don & Eleanor Lease
Sent: Wednesday, March 15, 2006 11:44 AM
Subject: Re: ATV County Road Access
Dear Don,

Thank you for the letter. My position as stated in the paper was somewhat oversimplified. ATVs, just like snowmobiles and motorcycles, are here to stay. We need to find a way to regulate them and keep them safe. Right now we are not enforcing any restrictions along our county roads unless the user is seen doing something stupid. The situation is "undefined" to say the least. I agree that the driver needs to be licensed, and insurance needs to be obtained. I also feel we need to be more aggressive in investigating citizen complaints, and environmental damage. Without clear definition of what areas can and can't be used this becomes difficult.

In my opinion the areas around our lakes and the trails to the overlooks should be closed to ATV use. The logging and tote roads in the back woods areas could be used by ATVs. If wetland violations occur they should be investigated. County roads could be used as connectors for use by both groups. Safety is always an issue and some forms of transportation may be relatively safer than others, but we currently allow everything from baby buggies to logging trucks to use our county roads. ATVs are already a part of this mix. If the Sheriff or County Engineer feel that a portion of a county road is unsafe we should regulate it.

I will have a lot of difficulty supporting a blanket opening of county roads without a solid commitment to also increase education and enforcement. This could be accomplished by using some of the gas tax money that is designated to ATV trails to provide the funding. This could be similar to the Game Warden or Highway Patrol system.

We're still trying to sort all this out, and I am open to any ideas that will help us improve the situation as it now exists.

Thanks for your comments.

Jim Johnson

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Country commissioner Johnson Supporting Opening the Gunflint Trail To ATV's

The Gunflint Trail's County commissioner Jim Johnson in a recent email express support for allowing ATVs to travel on all county roads including the Gunflint Trail. In a recent email to me Johnson states that,

"I support opening county roads to ATVs because they are structured to
support cars and trucks and ATV's would not impact the environment as much
as when they ride in the ditches as they do now. The Gunflint Trail
itself may be a problem because of safety issues, especially coming up that
first hill.

If, however, we are looking at safety issues we should also look
at other forms of transportation such as motorcycles, bicycles, horses, in-line
skates, walking etc. We do not prohibit the use of these on county
roads, and it seems to be somewhat discriminatory to prohibit ATV's.
Obviously, the ATV drivers would have to have a valid driver's license and
drive within the law."

In a email I wrote to Johnson I stated, "While I can support ATVs on some country roads, I believe this would be a poor idea on other country roads. And most importantly it would be a very poor idea to open the Gunflint Trail to the unrestricted use of ATVs. The Trail is already busy enough. ATVs would add a most unwelcome element to the traffic on the Trail, particularly during the busy summer season. Further allowing ATVs on the Trail would certainly be a detriment to the quiet nature vacation that most of the business on the trail are attempting to promote. I feel that if the Trail was opened to ATVs it would soon be promoted as a ATV travel corridor and destination much to the detriment of many of our businesses"

The issue of safety maybe a problem, Johnson you have to be kidding, the way I see it, allowing ATV's on the Gunflint would be a major safety problem! Dave Seaton, from Hungry Jack Outfitters in a recent email to Johnson also expressed his concerns of the safety of ATV's traveling along the Gunflint.

Other Gunflint Trail residents have also express the opposition to allowing ATV's on the Trail.
Don Lease, from Road Lake emailed Johnson that, "The Gunflint Trail has been declared a Scenic Byway. How would ATVs on the Trail affect the Byway program being spearheaded by the Gunflint Trail Association."

Don when on to state that, "Last year we had a bad accident on Clearwater Road where 3 children driving and riding on a 4-wheeler went off the road and down a huge embankment. This required the involvement of two ambulances with a doctor aboard one to treat grievous injuries on the way to the hospital. In addition, it required involvement of the Gunflint Trail rescue squad plus a tow truck to retrieve the vehicle. Also, in reading a lot of game warden reports they say they have been lucky and in time to stop an accident from happening. Two that I can quickly recall of were the stopping of a 4-wheeler with 3 or more underage riders on one vehicle and one adult individual stopped was allowing a child to ride on the front rack and stated to the Warden, 'At least she was wearing a helmet.' I am sure not all riders are bad, but from previous experiences and expenses of other counties road and environmental costs I just wonder if Cook County is ready for this. Just look at the TV and magazine ads where the manufacturers make it look like riders can drive through any terrain and stream bed. I am not sure I call this being responsible with county property and the environment."

Mike Sherfy, of Rockwood Lodge,amongg other concerns about ATV's on the Gunflint states that, "Enforcement of existing regulations seems to be a big problem. Jim's argument that it is difficult to enforce current ATV usage as justification for opening all roads to ATV use is lame. Saying that 'law enforcement tells us that they are not ticketing ATV users along county roads at this time, unless they are doing something dangerous, so opening the county roads won't make much difference' shows a disrespect for existing regulations. Current enforcement of ATV restrictions and vehicle speed limits along the Trail seem to be of little concern to county officials."

After talking to many of my neighbors, its clear to me that many, if not most, Gunflint resident think that allowing ATV's on the Gunflint is a bad idea.

What do you think?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Local Skiers Post One of the Fastest Times on Banadad

One of the fasted time to ski the Banadad was posted by two Hovland Skiers on February 22. Brian and Debbie Bennett skied the 19 kilometer Banadad along with a side jaunt into the Croft Yurts in the record time of just under two and one-half hours. Brian's company, Outback Solar, installs solar power system in the area including serveral systems for Gunflint Trail resident "living off the grid." Debbie works at Gun Flint Tavern in Grand Marais.

Normal time for most skiers to ski the entire trail is seven to eight hours spread over two days.

I do not know if anyone has posted a better time then the Bennetts. If anyone knows of times even close to their time I sure would be interest in hearing about it.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Locals View Chain of Lakes Ruling Good First Step

Letter to the Editor, Cook County News March 02nd, 2006 11:20:01 AM-The question has been asked, how the U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in the Chain of Lakes case is a win for the Forest Service and Conservationists with Common Sense (CWCS)? The Forest Service, with CWCS as intervenors, appealed the U.S. District Court’s ruling on two counts — that the Forest Service didn’t have the right to recalculate the Chain of Lakes permits to correct an error; and the recalculation was arbitrary and capricious. The U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the first count, stating the USFS has authority to recalculate the base period use to correct a significant legal error made as a result of the 1999 Dombeck ruling. So, this ruling is in the Forest Service’s and CWCS’s favor — a win.

The Dombeck ruling redefined “that particular lake” to mean just the first lake of each chain, not the entire chain of lakes. For more than 20 years the Forest Service had interpreted “that particular lake” to mean the entire chain. Resorts, outfitters and property owners had been exempted from needing a permit when they traveled the entire chain of lakes. They received a sticker for their boats instead. This was part of the compromise of the 1978 BWCA Wilderness Act. The Dombeck ruling restricted that exemption to just the first lake of each chain, thus a permit is now required to access the remainder of the chain of lakes to the first portage.

There were never any permits allocated for any of the chain of lakes, and that is why the Forest Service had to recalculate the permit quotas, to correct this error. On the second count, the Court of Appeals ruled that the method the Forest Service used to recalculate the base period permits for each of the three Chain of Lakes (Moose Lake, Farm Lake and Seagull River chains) was unreliable or inadequately explained, thus upholding the District Court’s ruling that the way in which the Forest Service conducted the recalculations was arbitrary and capricious. But, the Court of Appeals then ruled: Having determined the USFS improperly recalculated the base period use, we conclude the USFS must recalculate the quotas consistent with BWCAW Act and the views expressed herein. We consider this another win. The permit quotas for the Chain of Lakes will be recalculated, but there will be a delay as to when they will be added.

CWCS looks forward to working with the Forest Service in recalculating the number of permits for the three Chain of Lakes. I hope this clarifies things for everyone. Nancy McReady, president, Ely based, Conservationists With Common Sense

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Locally Supported Northern Snowmobile Route to South Fowls Approved

After years of delay and debate, Gunflint District Ranger Dennis Neitzke finally decided to authorize construction of the locally supported and the most logical snowmobile access route from McFarland to South Fowls Lakes. While the selected route shirts the BWCA, the alternate route supported by some would have been built along side of the McFarland Road creating an unacceptable safety consideration. The alternative route would also have been longer.

The route was needed to replace the original route, the Tilbury Trail, which was closed by Neitzke in 2003 because it dipped into the BWCA at one point. Like the Tilbury Trail the approved new route primary purpose will be to provide snowmobile access for ice fisherman between McFarland and South Fowl.

The question locals are still asking is "why did it take the USFS so long to make such a simple decision?"

For more information go to the USFS record of decision.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Its Official- February Colder Then Average

According to Poplar Lake's official weather station, maintained by Dave Clutter, this February's average temperature was 7.42 degrees. The ten year average for the month is 9.3 degrees. The months coldest day was February 18 when the thermometer hit -25. Quite a change from the balmy weather posted in January.

As for snow on Poplar Lake -the ten year average for the month is 10.26 inches. This year slightly less fell- 9.7 inches of snow was recorded.