Stower Seven Lakes State Trail aka Amery to Dresser Trail | Doug Johnson

What is the issue? Really?

The past 13 years have given the current users of the Stower Seven Lakes Trail ample opportunity to demonstrate how denying some trail uses has benefited our community. While there have been a handful of users from outside our locale, the majority of current users remain local and their economic impact on our communities remains minimal. They are still actively opposed to sharing this valuable state-owned trail with anyone else. Today they are known as the Friends of the Stower Seven Lakes State Trail.

Opponents to sharing this valuable state-owned asset, Friends of the L.O.G.G., went to work as soon as the master plan was approved in 2004 to prevent the trail from being enjoyed by those who had worked so hard to develop the plan.

A recent change to the statutory definition of allowable uses on state trails made snowmobilers hopeful that we could add this valuable link to our existing system of interconnected snowmobile trails as was envisioned so many years ago.

In 2017, Polk County was given the opportunity to update that old master plan and renew its agreement with the DNR to manage the trail.

The latest trail-related lawsuit filed against Polk County, on Nov. 9, 2017, is one more example of a small special-interest group that believes it should dictate to the majority how this valuable state-owned property should be used only for their personal enjoyment. The lawsuit is an attempt to derail the county’s recent resolution regarding entering into a new agreement with the DNR which could authorize snowmobile use on the Stower Trail. It is more about delaying the updating of the master plan than it is about following any procedure. The Polk County Board has acted in good faith to follow all of the state’s requirements in its efforts to enhance Polk County tourism.

The opponents to snowmobile use on the Stower Seven Lakes State Trail are not only keeping snowmobilers from enjoying this state trail for our short snowmobile season but they are also depriving local businesses of the positive economic activity enjoyed by the communities that support snowmobiling.

Snowmobilers bring their own volunteers and pay for trail maintenance from a segregated fund established by the snowmobile community without any general tax dollars. When a trail is designated as part of our funded snowmobile trail system the managing county also uses those same segregated funds when performing maintenance on the trail. The administrative costs for managing the snowmobile grant at the county level are also borne by the snowmobile fund, as is the cost of law enforcement on the snowmobile trails. The snowmobile community pays its own way.

Currently there are 41 named state trails in Wisconsin. All but three list snowmobiling as an authorized use. Snowmobilers are happy to share the trails and do our part to contribute to our communities.

Snowmobilers from the 14 Polk County snowmobile clubs support the efforts of our county board to update the master plan for the Stower Seven Lakes State Trail and enhance this trail as a true economic generator for our communities.

Again, what is the issue? Really?

Doug Johnson

Snowmobile representative to Wisconsin Governor’s State Trails Council