Renville County reconsiders OHV park

OLIVIA -- One year ago, Renville County's Board of Commissioners rejected $225,000 in grant monies to develop a gravel pit into an off-highway vehicle park after neighbors voiced strong opposition to it.

OLIVIA -- One year ago, Renville County's Board of Commissioners rejected $225,000 in grant monies to develop a gravel pit into an off-highway vehicle park after neighbors voiced strong opposition to it.

The neighbors are just as opposed this time around, but the proposal is back before the board.

This time, it also comes with lots of support from off-highway vehicle enthusiasts. They told the County Board on Tuesday that developing the gravel pit into an off-highway vehicle park would allow the county to better manage an area that is already heavily used by riders and improve recreational opportunities in the county.

"We're not here to make it worse. We're here to make it better,'' said Ryan Becklund of the Redwood Area Trail Tamers, a newly formed off-highway vehicle club that is working on behalf of developing the site.

The commissioners took no action but at an upcoming meeting are expected to make a decision on whether to support the proposal to develop the park.


The gravel pit is located in Section 35 of Henryville Township near Beaver Falls County Park. The county already owns 40 acres of the site, and the owner of the remaining 157 acres has expressed a willingness to sell.

The property is also leased through 2010 by Duininck Bros. Construction, Prinsburg, which mines gravel there and has also expressed interest in acquiring the property.

The county remains eligible for $100,000 in federal recreational trail monies and $125,000 in state of Minnesota trails money to develop the site for an off-highway vehicle park, according to Mark Erickson, the county's director of environment and community.

The gravel pit is already a popular destination for off-highway vehicle riders. Use of the site has only increased since the county acted two years ago to enforce regulations banning the vehicles from most areas of the county's other parks, supporters told the commissioners.

Neighbors to the gravel pit site and the riders alike termed the current situation at the site as everything from "dangerous'' to "chaos.''

There have been a number of accidents in the gravel pit, some serious. One accident victim this summer fractured a shoulder and needed a pin inserted to repair a damaged hip, Darlene Konz, a neighbor of the site, told the commissioners.

Her biggest concern is the constant noise and disruption the riding causes her. "It is really bad,'' said Konz. To make her point, she offered to play an 18-minute tape of the noise she recorded in her home about one mile from the park. The tape was made in February, she said.

Other neighbors cited a litany of other problems they've suffered as a result of the off-highway vehicle riding taking place. Harvey Mathiowetz has permission from the land's owner to hunt there, but he said the off-highway vehicle riders "took it over'' from him. He alleged that one group of young riders went so far as to assault him.


Edna Wertish said riders stray from the gravel pit and in some situations have "ripped up" adjacent croplands. She said the noise is a constant source of irritation at her home and disturb the deer she and her husband raise there.

Wertish told the commissioners that making the area an off-highway vehicle park and designing safe trails might reduce the number of accidents, but it won't decrease the noise and trespassing problems that neighbors will experience.

But proponents of developing a park said the opportunity to develop safe trails and regulate noise would improve conditions for the neighbors.

The perimeter of the park would be enclosed by a fence that would prevent riders from trespassing on neighboring lands. A similar system at a park in Appleton has proven very effective, Gregg Soupir, trails and waterways supervisor with the Department of Natural Resources Spicer office, told the commissioners.

Soupir said the park would be developed to assure a safe riding experience, and to protect against erosion and reduce noise.

Becklund and other members of the Redwood Area Trail Tamers club said they would help police the park by reporting violators. They plan to obtain a decibel meter and prevent people from bringing machines that exceed 99 decibels from entering the park. They said much of the excessive noise that disturbs neighbors is caused by riders who bring dirt bikes without mufflers into the park.

Club members also pledged to provide safety training for young riders and to take care of park and trail maintenance.

Most important, the park would serve to provide a place for off-highway vehicle riders to safely enjoy their sport, said club members. "We really enjoy (all-terrain vehicle) riding as a family,'' Sandy Straumann, a club member, said. "But there's no place for us to go.''


If developed, the park would include a system of trails linked to a single entrance point with a shelter, bathrooms and parking area.

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