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Woman pointing to "No ATVs Permitted" sign along Taconite State Trail
March 7, 2018
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Testifying against new bill that opens state parks to ATVs

A bill (HF 3142) has been introduced this session at the State Capitol that would open up two state parks to motorized all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). On Tuesday, Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota testified against the bill during the Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee (read our testimony here). Making this change fundamentally challenges the core of what it means to be a state park. Minnesota’s Outdoor Recreation Act states, “state parks shall be established to protect and perpetuate” our state’s outstanding natural landscapes. Furthermore, it goes on to say state parks “shall not be designed to accommodate all forms or unlimited volumes of recreational use.” Opening them up to ATVs flies in the face of this definition.

The specific language of the bill designates the campgrounds at Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine and Hayes Lake State Parks to be accessible to ATVs as well as access routes to these campgrounds from nearby ATV trails outside the parks. While this “pilot project” is limited to two state parks, it effectively begins the process of chipping away at the Minnesota Outdoor Recreation Act, in a way that puts all state parks in jeopardy by setting a precedent for a use that has always been interpreted to be in conflict with the definition of a state park. This bill comes fresh on the heels of another effort to get ATVs into state parks along the Taconite Trail and demonstrates that no state park is safe if the Outdoor Recreation Act is subverted.

ATVs simply do not belong in state parks. There is already 4 million acres of state forest land open to ATVs. That’s 18 times more land than what is protected within the state park system. That statistic paired with the fact that only five percent of Minnesotans own an ATV, while 30 percent visit state parks, sheds light on how this change benefits a few at the expense of many.
Opening the door to ATVs in state parks, would be an unprecedented step, one which ignores the preferences of the majority of state park visitors, as reflected in visitor surveys conducted by the MnDNR. Increasing ATV opportunities should not come at the expense of Minnesota state parks.

Parks & Trails Council will work to stop this bill from becoming law, but we can’t do it without you. We encourage our members to reach out to their representatives and senators to let them know you oppose this bill and any other effort to open up state parks to ATVs.