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Paved Paul Bunyan Trail doesn't promote multi-use

Recently I received an invitation from Mayor Lehmann to Bemidji's sixth annual Paul Bunyan Trail Ride to recognize the accomplishments of the Paul Bunyan State Trail. Specifically, it was an invitation for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Guthrie Town Hall on Aug. 21. I must respectfully decline that invitation as I feel the paving of the entire trail from Bemidji to Walker was an improper use of the people's money.

The trail was originally touted as a "multi use trail," apparently that was a ruse. Instead, the money taken from the people was spent for other people of our state for their personal recreation. Is the trail nice? Absolutely, it is a beautiful route through the countryside. However, the rest of us will pay for it.

Early on in the process, I requested that Sen. Mary Olson consider a true multi- use trail as many of our constituents ride horseback. Apparently, it was not that important that we serve all the people as Tony Walser of the Department of Natural Resources reported at one of our meetings that a horse riding path "did not fit their plan."

The DNR's 2006 legislation budget reports $3.9 million for the trail and in 2008, and another $2 million later for a total of $5.9 million for the PBST. The DNR budget for 2008 was about $105 million.

One constituent summed it up in the finding of facts by questioning the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources saying, "paving over the lands" or "paving the outdoors." When will the mission of DNR be "preserving and sustaining the environment?" The DNR simply noted the comment.

In these days of talk about cuts to Local Government Aid to support our towns' grading and plowing of our roads, we lack analyzing our priorities.

Finally, why don't we at least consider a "pay for use" plan? If you use it, help pay for it. Perhaps its users could at least help pay for upcoming maintenance as already thousands of dollars has been spent on maintenance on the trail from Walker to Cass Lake.

Wouldn't it be fair if we at least permitted people who use the trail the same $16 yearly permit we charge snowmobilers to use the very same trail? If that was the case, at least for me, it would be tolerable.

Russ Nickerson


Guthrie Township