uman Powered Trails, Inc. is a non-profit organization whose mission is: “To develop and maintain first class sustainable and environmentally correct, human-powered, shared use trails for the La Crosse, WI region."
|Keeping you informed: Land access update|
|Written by Gene Roberts|
|Friday, 29 January 2010 17:19|
It has been some time since I have supplied an update where things stand with the future of trail development. It has been a very busy time for HPT leadership!
As you'll recall HPT worked cooperatively over a two year period with the Mississippi Valley Conservancy (MVC), the City of La Crosse, Myrick Hixon ECO Park, and the DNR to develop the La Crosse Bluffland Protection Plan, a plan to join together to protect the community's blufflands for natural, scenic, and recreational purposes. Parcels of land within the LBPP area were purchased with money from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship fund.
On April 17, 2009... after several miles of trail construction HPT was instructed to cease trail construction which we complied. A meeting of the groups involved in the development of the LBPP master plan, members of the DNR consisting of the Regional Land Program Supervisor, the Stewardship Grant Program Manager, and DNR legal counsel was held May 1, 2009. HPT’s position reaffirmed that a stated goal for the for the tract of land in question was to have trails that provided better protection for the natural resources by helping direct the flow of human-powered traffic as from the most sensitive areas rather than rogue trail development. The conclusion of this meeting resulted in the agreement that the DNR “would review the issues presented, revisit the properties, and relook at the biking issue with the information provided to be taken into consideration”. It was understood that HPT would be included in the DNR’s review and tour of the property. A follow-up meeting was scheduled for May 21, 2009 to allow adequate time for department review and a group tour of the property”.
On May 21, 2009 representatives of HPT, MVC and the City of La Crosse entered that meeting in good faith. It was apparent from the onset that there was to be no compromise and that we had been called summarily to be hand delivered a letter from the DNR dated May 13, 2009 directed to MVC restating the DNRs rational for terminating trail construction and further defining timelines for reclamation of the newly constructed trail. Neither HPT nor the biologists from MVC were given the opportunity to tour the property in question as had been agreed. To date HPT has complied with all of the date-specific demands of this letter. At this time we continue to work with all LBPP parties and DNR representatives in La Crosse and Madison in hopes of arriving at an amicable solution.
As stewards of the land we recognize the need to maintain the integrity of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program. We understand that the Knowles-Nelson program has the dual purpose of protecting wildlife habitat and natural communities while at the same time providing the required recreational opportunities (the five nature-based outdoor activities: hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, and cross-country skiing) as defined in SS Conservation 23 but also allowing outdoor-based recreational opportunities (including bicycling) as defined in Administrative Code NR 51. We believe that we complied with the master planning process defined by the DNR to arrive at an agreement to allow bicycling on these lands only to have the agreement reversed.
Over the past one and one-half years the DNR has operated under interim rules to disallow any one of the NBOAs. Administrative Code NR 52 was proposed to provide the DNR with a well defined and transparent process to exclude any one of the NBOAs. HPT objected to this proposal on the grounds that it did nothing to address the loophole of other allowable “outdoor-based recreational activities” defined in their own Administrative Code NR 51. HPT representatives have been aggressively monitoring this proposal and have provided public comment in opposition to this proposal. The proposal has passed through all of the necessary departmental administrative requirements and was presented to the Natural Resources Board (NRB) on January 26, 2010. Thirty-four speakers, including State Senator Dan Kapanke of La Crosse, the Driftless Regional Bike Coalition and myself representing HPT provided testimony. Following testimony and open debate, despite numerous objections to the language and purpose of this proposal, the NRB voted unanimously to forward this proposal to the legislature for further review and debate.
A leadership group comprised of the Bike Federation of Wisconsin, HPT, IMBA, and WORBA has been working closely together and are planning to address the legislative committees and key Assembly and Senate members before this issue comes before them for review. HPT feels that this is an issue that is important to all off-road cyclists in the state as the outcome is significant to the future development of trails not only in La Crosse but the state of Wisconsin.
Thanks for reading and I hope to keep you all abreast of future developments as they occur.