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B2B motorized route may avoid Cook County, shift to Lake County

This group of vehicles followed the proposed B2B route through Cook County. Photo by Scott Benolken
This group of vehicles followed the proposed B2B route through Cook County. Photo by Scott Benolken

Discussion continues throughout northern Minnesota, including here in Cook County, regarding a proposed Border to Border Touring Route. The route is described as a backcountry adventure tour for road legal off-highway vehicles over existing gravel or paved Forest Service, DNR or county-managed roads. The route, when finalized, will be signed and mapped.

Though nothing is official as of Feb. 1, there are discussions about transferring the location of the route outside of Cook County and shifting it to Lake County. It would then start (or end, depending on which direction one was traveling) in Two Harbors or Silver Bay.

This notion was discussed during a meeting of the Lake County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, Jan. 28. Lake County Commissioner Pete Walsh confirmed this with WTIP on Jan. 30.

Andrew Brown is a natural resources specialist with the DNR based in Grand Rapids. He is the project lead on the B2B. In an email sent to WTIP Jan. 31, Brown confirmed that while Cook County is not entirely off the table with regard to possibly hosting some section of the route, focus is turning to Lake County as they continue “moving ahead with route planning to ensure we have a route from the Lake Superior to North Dakota.”

To date, county officials in at least one Minnesota county have expressed public concern about the B2B. Officials in Clearwater County passed a resolution opposing the touring route, a request the DNR fulfilled.

There have been concerns expressed publicly about the B2B in Cook County, including a fear that the roads on the proposed route will not hold up to an increase in motorized traffic. There are also concerns that vehicles could damage trout streams and sensitive areas of the forest, including wetlands. Also shared by Cook County residents were concerns about invasive species coming in from vehicles using the touring route. In addition, some expressed concern about who will pay for the roads if they’re damaged.

In related news, a letter dated Dec. 27, 2019 from Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen to the commissioners and various county staff indicated the sheriff’s concerns about the B2B.

Others, meanwhile, state the fact the roads that would be included in the touring route in Cook County are public roads. Furthermore, Cook County is the only county to date to draft a resolution supporting the B2B. That notion was spearheaded by Commissioner Heidi Doo-Kirk, though the resolution never made it before the full county board for an official vote.

WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs spoke with Doo-Kirk about the B2B with regard to the sheriff’s letter and the news about Lake County.