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OHV Riding on the Iron Range - Show 1

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Podcasts
OHV Riding on the Iron Range - Show 1 .mp3 (1.48 Mb) 10/12/07

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Steve Carroll:

Greetings, and welcome to the DNR's podcast on off-highway vehicles, and in particular the Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area in Gilbert, MN.

I'm DNR Information Officer Steve Carroll, and I'm joined by Recreation Area Manager Bob Chance.

Hi, Bob.

Bob Chance:

Hi, Steve. Glad to be here today.

SC:

Well, tell us about this off-highway vehicle recreation area and where it's located.

BC:

Well it was created, it opened in 2002, September, and we've been open five years now. And it was created by the legislature by statute for motorized recreation, in particular all terrain vehicles, off-highway motorcycles, and off-road vehicles, which are 4x4 trucks and Jeeps.

SC:

And where is Gilbert, MN?

BC:

It's located in northeastern Minnesota on the Iron Range and I've found that that's not a distinct enough description of where it's located.

If you take Interstate 35 north to the Cloquet cutoff, Highway 33, through Cloquet to Highway 53, and go north to the Iron Range, on the Eveleth cutoff you'll find Highway 37 that goes to Gilbert. So it's located near Virginia, in the Hibbing Virginia area.

SC:

And so the site of the recreation area was actually a former mine is that correct?

BC:

It's a former mine, one of the red ore types of mines. It was mined up until 1981 and most of the recreation area is where the overburden or the stockpiles were placed while they were mining in the pit.

SC:

And so you said it opened five years ago?

BC:

Yes.

SC:

What has the usage been? What has the interest been like?

BC:

It's very close to what during the planning stages we figured it would be. It's about ten thousand vehicles a year, and we count vehicles not people. It's been averaging that just about every year for the past five years.

SC:

What makes this riding experience so special?

BC:

It gives a type of recreation for people that will run the gamut from nice trail riding through pine trees, to challenge areas, to hills for trucks, rock crawls, we do have some trail rides through the wooded areas for trucks. For motorcycles we have a practice track for racing, we have single track through the woods for them. It gives a little bit to everybody.

SC:

You've got some of those mud bowls too or something too don't you?

BC:

Well, we do. It's not the main part of the recreation area and we find that the people that are interested in the mud it's actually a minority, a small minority. But there are people interested so, yes we did create some mud run areas that we have control over where the mud ends up and the run off and that sort of a thing. And we find there are a few people that are interested in that.

SC:

Who would use this recreation area? I mean are they experienced riders or new to the activity?

BC:

We're finding for the past five years it runs the gamut. We're finding people that are just starting out and we're also finding people coming in that are very experienced and are looking for a challenge and we do have that challenge for them. The description would be that people with 4x4 trucks that are looking for a rock crawl and extremes we have it. For the people that just want to come in for an ATV ride down the trail that's easy going, we have that also.

SC:

How do people find out which trails to go on when they get there?

BC:

Well, we have a map that we do hand to people and we have maps throughout the recreation area, "You Are Here" maps, that let them know where they're at. Then each trail is signed as for the type of use and its difficulty.

SC:

Do you find that a time of year's busier than a different time?

BC:

We had some ideas when we opened up. We thought summer time would be the busy time -- June, July, and August. What we've found is from the time we open up seven days a week in May, all the way through to the end of October, it's busy.

SC:

Is it busy - are these men, women, boys, girls or does that kind of run the gamut too?

BC:

Again it runs the gamut. And it depends on the time of the year. During the summer we're going to see families that come up especially with motorcycles. We see a lot of families that everybody's riding a motorcycle. We see, in the fall we see older couples that show up to recreate. And during the spring we'll see the thirty-something type of guy that's out there with his machine. And we'll also see throughout the year many couples that show up to ride that's something that they've decided that they're going to take part in. So it runs the gamut, but we do see seasonal types of uses from different people.

SC:

And you talked about the variety of trails, there's something kind of for every skill level, but it's an outstanding, very scenic location too.

BC:

Yes, once we get up on top of what we call the stockpiles, they're actually hills that were built as they mined the overburden and the ore they could not use, they built some hills 200, 300 feet high. And we have some scenic overlooks that give you a good view of the eastern part of the Iron Range, the Mesabi Range, and overviews of some beautiful lakes that are in the area. And it gives another overview of the city of Gilbert and you get a good look at it.

SC:

What's been the economic impact to the recreation area for the town of Gilbert?

BC:

Most of it's anecdotal. I don't have any studies that have been done so far, but just from seeing what's happening we can see that there's been some offshoot businesses that have started. We've got a rental business that rents ATVs, we have a car wash that's all of a sudden popped up, and the idea was they would cater to people using the recreation area. The campground, the city campground, has increased its business over and over and over again to the point where now it's a moneymaker and before we opened up it was not. And then another campground, a private campground, opened up. So we see things happening in Gilbert that were not there before. I cannot say that we're the ones that did it, but we're seeing it happen.

SC:

Sure, well obviously it's contributed to it.

BC:

Definitely.

SC:

Yeah. You mentioned rock crawling. Why don't you explain to our listeners what rock crawling is all about?

BC:

It's mostly with the 4x4 trucks and Jeeps. And what they're doing is crawling over the tops of boulders. And they have developed, they've put together machines, that have the right size tires, the right size axles, the right size suspensions, and they come in and it's a very slow, methodical type of activity where they're actually trying to technically climb over the tops of rocks that most people would have a difficult time trying to walk on.

SC:

What kind of safety equipment do people need to have?

BC:

With the trucks -- we're looking at- it's very minimal. We're looking at everybody that's going to ride in the truck has to have a safety belt and after that they can go in. With ATVs anyone under 18 must wear a helmet, everyone over 18 it's the same regulation we have anywhere in MN. We highly recommend it, but it's not mandatory. Motorcycles, it's very similar, wear the helmet. And that's about it.

SC:

You mentioned earlier when the recreation area is open. Why don't you tell us again what are the hours and how much does it cost?

BC:

Hours of operation, May through October, we're open seven days a week and the hours run according to the sunset. So we're open approximately an hour before sunset we'll close. From 8am to wherever that hour before sunset happens to fall. This time of the year it's 8am to 5:30, middle of the summer in July 8am to 8pm. During the winter we're open on weekends, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, virtually runs the same hours, daily hours 8am till about an hour before sunset. Of course, sunset's very early in the winter time so it's about 8am to 4:30pm.

We are closed for two weeks out of the year by statute, we have to do this, during firearms deer season. And otherwise we're open the rest of the time.

SC:

And how much does it cost?

BC:

The cost -- actually what we require is that you have off-highway vehicle registration on the vehicle. At this time, that is the only requirement or cost that we have as far as the vehicle.

SC:

OK. Well, if people would like to learn more about the OHV recreation area in Gilbert where should they go?

BC:

Well, the DNR website off-highway vehicle, if they go to that site or findthetrails.com, an award winning site that the Department of Natural Resources Trails and Waterways has put together, they'll find information about the Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area and other opportunities throughout Minnesota like in our State Forest or on grant and aide trails.

SC:

OK. Well, that's about all the time we have today for our podcast about the Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area in Gilbert, MN.

I'd like to thank our guest Bob Chance, he's the Recreation Area Manager. And I'd like to thank you too for listening. I'm Steve Carroll for the Minnesota DNR.