Traverse City Record-Eagle

Sports

April 18, 2014

DNR seeks solution to Vasa dispute

TRAVERSE CITY — Fat tire bikers and cross country skiers are hoping for some sort of resolution to a brewing controversy on April 28.

The two user groups have struggled to coexist in the first year since TART opened the Vasa trail to fat bikes as a test run.

Citing damage that has been done by fat tire bikes on the Vasa this winter, along with the danger the bikes pose on the trail, a group of skiers started a petition seeking to ban fat tire bikes from the Vasa ski trails. Fat bike users countered that with a petition of their own to prevent the ban. Hundreds of signatures have been gathered between the two petitions so far. Now the Department of Natural Resources will hear both sides’ arguments at the April 28 meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the Traverse City Civic Center. An independent moderator will conduct the meeting and the DNR will use public comments in that time as part of its deliberations.

“I’m getting a great deal of input,” said Todd Neiss, recreation specialist for the DNR who has been handling letters and e-mails from both sides.

“What we intend to do is lay out the current facts that we have with the Vasa. It was developed by cross country skiers and there is a lot of volunteerism and hard work that was put in to make this Vasa Pathway a cross country ski venue. Now, suddenly there are bikes on the trail. The issue is the pathways are designated for non-motorized use. By our state land use rules, bikes with the new technology are allowed on that pathway. We want civil discourse and we want some solutions. We want to hear some suggestions from our user groups.”

From the input he’s received, Neiss estimates about 60 percent of it has been in favor of allowing the fat bikes on the trail. He indicated after both sides present their points of view, a group of five or six people — which will include individuals from both sides, plus DNR and TART representatives — will sit down to try to hash out some sort of solution to the dispute.

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