Stower Trail right of way

In research for amendments allowing ATVs and UTVs on the Stower Seven Lakes State Trail, Polk County Supervisor Chris Nelson marked the 100-foot width of the easement for the rail bed with stakes. Nelson presented this photo, including arrows drawn to point out the stakes, to the Polk County Board of Supervisors Tuesday evening.

The Polk County Board last night approved a plan that would add ATV and UTV use to the Stower Seven Lakes State Trail. The plan, which proposes a parallel path within the trail’s existing right of way to separate different types of trail users, will now go to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for review.

The addition was unexpected after a trail-planning subcommittee had recommended allowing snowmobile use on the Stower, but not ATV or UTV use.

As recommended by the trail-planning group, snowmobile and horseback riding were added to the Stower plan. UTVs were added to the Cattail Trail plan, which already allows ATVs, snowmobiles and horseback riding.

Adding ATVs and UTVs

Supervisor Chris Nelson suggested the additions as amendments to the trail planning subcommittee’s proposal.

“I listened to the silent walking people. I agree with them. If they’re not comfortable using a multiuse trail I agree that that’s a problem. But in a hundred foot wide, we could easily create another trail. So multiple corridors in this hundred feet is what my thought would be.”

Per Nelson’s proposal, the existing trail would become multiuse and the second path would be developed.

“I’m asking for our board to say, ‘Let’s go muli-use. Let’s keep strict speed limits. Let’s maintain a buffer for the silent sports people. Let’s help them develop a trail that is just for silent sports. And the concept would be, where those trails join and where there are crossings, where there’s water, where there’s streets, villages, municipalities that we enforce a very strict speed limit and mitigate any of that issue.”

It was not immediately clear how the parallel corridor would be developed. Nelson told board members he was not proposing additional funding, and any funding requests would have to be brought to the board separately.

The amendment passed by one vote, 8 to 7.

In favor: Joe Demulling, Brad Olson, Chris Nelson, Tracy LeBlanc, Brian Masters, Larry Jepsen, Russ Arcand and John Bonneprise.

Against: Doug Route, Michael Prichard, Jim Edgell, Kim O’Connell, Jay Luke, Michael Larson and Dean Johansen.

Grant repayment?

Nelson proposed a second set of amendments addressing the possibility that a change in the trail’s use could result in mandatory repayment of American Recovery and Reinvestment grant funds used to create the trail.

Nelson included a clause that would allow the county to seek an exception to the rule that would trigger the payback, 23 U.S.C (h). Another clause allows the board of supervisors to review the authorized uses if an exception is not granted and the county would need to repay ARRA grant funds.

The second set of amendments passed by voice vote.

With the amendments in place, the resolution passed 11 to 4 in a ballot vote.

DNR will review

The plan now goes to the DNR for review, and could be returned for revisions. For supervisor Jim Edgell, that was one more reason to settle the matter at the Oct. 16 meeting.

“I would like to see us move this along,” he said. “Send it to the DNR. Let them tear it apart or whatever they do. If there are problems, they’ll send it back and then we’ll take care of it.”

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