I’ve admired Polk County long before my wife and I became landowners here. My memories go back to meeting Supervisor Bud Pedersen and admiring his fairness and enjoying his friendship. Current discussions by the County Board to degrade the few silent trails left are unfortunate. Polk County is the home of Gaylord Nelson. He would be ashamed of moves to allow/extend motors on the Gandy and Stower trails. 

Motorized usage destroys the fragile trails by breaking through the top coat into the subsoil, leaving dangerous ruts.  I took a biker to the St. Croix Falls ER who crashed on a rutted section caused by illegal ATV use. Snowmobiles on the Stower make it unsafe for skiers, hikers and especially children.

If the history of Polk County and the legacy of Gaylord mean nothing, let me remind the reader that these trails are rare. Degrading them closes the door on a significant economic driver. I point to the mining town of Leadville, CO, which was devastated by the closing of the Climax Mine. Forward thinking residents invested in trails and silent sports opportunities. Out of the box thinking changed the fortunes of that struggling mountain city. Closer to home, the Iron Range cities near Crosby, MN, put millions into their biking trails and have experienced an explosion of tourism and revenue. The discussion to expand motorized access is penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Having said that, it saddens me that nature advocates are shamed into prefacing arguments to save the land with economic rationale, (e.g “bikers and skiers support business,”  “we’re taxpayers too,”  “we may have to pay the DNR for converting to motors,” etc). Doesn’t anyone care that there is something implicitly good in preserving a few spots of natural beauty, accessible to all, regardless of how much money people make or spend or where they live? To desecrate these areas would be a grave mistake and the permanent legacy of the Polk County Board. Please speak out so that our grandchildren will not hear stories about how there were once two wild, beautifully preserved trail systems in Polk County and we ruined them.

 

Dan and Beth Woll

River Falls (and Comstock)

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