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Voyageur's Best Features of 2006

DNR Enforcement

How much DNR enforcement is too much?
 
by John Grones  |  September 19, 2006
 

How much DNR enforcement is too much? That was the big question at the annual Rendezvous for Rory ATV ride this year.

This past Saturday, my wife Memory and I decided to join the ride. The event featured a recreational ATV ride on the Soo Line railroad grade from Jackson’s Hole in Lawler to the Ed and Wendy Hamilton residence west of  McGregor. Planned stops on private property included Jack Olson’s gravel pit, Jim Nistler’s property, and of course Ed and Wendy’s for lunch.

It was a nice fall day, and since the money raised goes to youth outdoor recreation activities, we decided to attend. What started out as a very enjoyable day, turned out to be another lesson in regulations provided by the Department of Natural Resources.

We haven’t had real good luck this year with the DNR, and officials are getting to know us on a first name basis. For the most part, we are law- abiding citizens, but in this case, we didn’t take the time to look into our ATV registration.

As it turned out, our ATV was fully registered, but we failed to display the registration decal. We have owned the ATV for four years, and it has been exclusively used for farm use at home.

Oops.

Memory and I aren’t making any excuses. We should have had the proper decals displayed, and the fine will be paid in full.

There have been mixed emotions about the five DNR Conservation Officers (CO) that lined the Soo Line grade during the event. Local CO Brent Speldrich has expressed that he has been too lenient in the past. “It was time to become proactive,” he said. “I had received many complaints from last year’s ride. I made it known that I was going to be there.”

Brent decided it was time to provide enforcement and proactive education during the ride. He shared that many of the riders received warnings, and a few received citations for registration issues.

We fell into the citation category.

Kim Olson, along with friends and family, started the ride a few years back, and she has tried to promote a responsible ride. “We’ve organized the ride to include riding opportunities on private property, and we scheduled lunch at the Hamilton’s,” she said. “We’ve tried to provide structure with a schedule for the entire day, but the evening is up to the riders.”

Kim is the wife of Rory Olson, who died of a brain aneurism in June of 2003. Kim decided to have the Rendezvous for Rory ATV run in his memory. She shared that the day is set aside for family entertainment.

This year, the ride was also in honor of John Maijala who attended the ride each year. John died in a motorcycle accident in June. Friends and family turned out to enjoy the ride.

For two years, Kim has used the proceeds of the ride to donate safety bags to young people that attend the DNR–sponsored snowmobile training in Tamarack. This year, Kim provided a blaze orange fanny pack to the students that attended gun safety. The bag contained such items as a compass, LED light, waterproof matches, and a number of other items.

According to Kim, these are the things that remind her of who her husband was. “These were the things that were important to Rory,” she said. “He spent many hours in the woods trapping and hunting.”

Kim noted that she realizes a few riders have left the trail in the past, and it is unfortunate. “I’m just disappointed that so many people were hassled this year,” she added. “We have been trying to teach our kids to respect the rules of the DNR.”

Jack Olson is also responsible for helping with the ride. He shared that they will accept responsiblity and help with educating the riders at their event about some of the rules.

Looking back, Brent did share that announcing their intentions at Jackson’s Hole would have been appropriate, but hindsight is always much clearer. “I generally don’t go to the bar because it makes some people uncomfortable,” added Brent.

Brent had nothing but good things to say about Kim’s efforts to organize the ride. “Kim’s efforts are benefiting the youth in the area,” Brent added, “and I don’t want the event to go away as long as it is run within legal parameters.”

Brent noted that they first encountered motorcycles riding on the grade, and there is an ordinance prohibiting this. They also encountered a Polaris Ranger being operated by Andrew Streeter and his friends. This recreational vehicle is also prohibited, but because it was being used for Andrew’s handicap, Brent allowed them to continue.

Kim and many of the riders questioned the need for five conservation officers that day. Brent shared that the ride was reported to include 200–400 riders.

Despite the negative tone that developed because of all the enforcement, Kim shared that she wants to continue the ride. She is not going to contribute to the DNR sponsored youth ATV safety, snowmobile safety or firearm safety classes again next year. However, she is going to look into donating to youth 4-H farm safety classes, youth hunting camps, or youth trapping training.

Brent has shared that he is willing to work with the organizers of the event in the future. He recognized that most of the riders obeyed the laws and drove responsibly.

Memory and I want to thank Kim for inviting us on the ride. It was a learning experience and thanks to our expensive oops, we now know a lot more than we anticipated about recreational ATV use. (Thanks, Jack, for helping us out with that.)

Next year, we would like to go again and we encourage the DNR officials to work together with the organizers of the ride.

How much DNR enforcement is too much? Readers are encouraged to share their veiwpoints in next week’s issue of the Voyageur Press. Send letters to 15 Country House Lane, McGregor, Minnesota 55760 or e-mail them to vpofmg@frontiernet.net.

This article first appeared in the September 19 issue of the Voyageur Press.