ously; we want folks to have a good riding experience so they will stay and return. They also need a trail system diverse and enjoyable enough so riders do not feel they need to “explore” or make their own trail. It’s now a few years after the Northwood’s grand opening. We feel the trail has been an effective land management tool for ATV use and an economic boost to our area. These goals could not be reached or sustained without the hard work and effort of the ATV clubs in our community. Communication and coordination are the keys. As an example, let’s look at the recent 400-foot Puncheon wetland bridge project on the Northwood’s Lawler Loops. A problem with that existing stretch was identified and it was determined, through discussions with the Up North Riders ATV Club and the Aitkin County trails coordinator, that the Puncheon would be the best solution. With the solution identified, it became a matter of coordinating the job. Since wetlands were in play, the work needed to be done when the ground was frozen and much of the materiel needed to be purchased and stockpiled on site before snow made the area inaccessible. Finally, on March 6, 10 Up North Riders ATV Club members and two Aitkin County land department employees built the Puncheon. Similar stories can be told about all of our clubs and the trail segments for which they are responsible. Not all projects involve the construction of a 400-foot Puncheon over a wetland. Clubs take care of the day to day maintenance and are required to make a weekly sweep of their trail segment to check for problems, reports are submitted to the Land Department. If a problem or issue is found, depending on the severity, the club will take care of it themselves or contact the county trail coordinator to figure out a solution. That solution could be something similar to the Lawler project where clubs and counties work together or perhaps the trail coordinator will offer a design and order and deliver materials and the club will do the work. If a problem is too severe a contractor might be called in to work with the club and county. Clubs generally have a trail foreman or similar person or committee, we encourage them to communicate with the county trails coordinator on a very regular basis and they do. Before the ATV season starts, the Aitkin County Land Department meets with clubs individually and also as a group. The Northwood’s ATV Trail Oversight committee that oversaw the design and construction of the trail system naturally included ATV club representation. Another source of communication on the trails is through the DNR Trail Ambassadors program. Trail Ambassadors ride the trails on a regular basis and not only focus on rider assistance but submit reports on the trails and trail activity. Every Ambassador that I know is also a member of an ATV club. So, enjoy the ride and respect the trails but also give a tip of the hat to the counties, clubs and our state DNR, which work together to help make our trails great. OR Ross Wagner is the Aitkin County Economic Development and Forest Industry Coordinator for Aitkin County. When riding your ATV near railroad tracks… • Always yield to trains – It can take a mile or more to stop a train; That’s 18 football fields! • Always look both ways when crossing tracks – Your engine can drown out the sound of the train’s horn • If your ATV stalls or gets hung up on the tracks, evacuate the vehicle immediately • Additional safety information can be found online at: www.mnoperationlifesaver.org These safety messages powered by and Minnesota Operation Lifesaver JUNE/JULY 2015 15