Park Service won’t press charges on Kooch County

Field Editor

International Falls, Minn. Koochiching County commissioners can
breathe easy. The National Park Service has decided not to press
charges against them for sponsoring a snowmobile rally in
Voyageur’s National Park last winter.

“We didn’t think much would be accomplished,” said Park
Superintendent Barb West.

The county, a perennial foe of the Park Service, decided to host
the event after West denied a permit for a snowmobile radar run
that had been held annually on Lake Kabetogama for many years. The
site of the race was on the frozen lake in front of resorts and
other development. The shoreline is outside the park. The lake is
within it.

West said her denial was based upon a 1982 law that specifically
prohibits snowmobile racing in national parks. Although the
original location was in St. Louis County, organizers moved the
event a short distance to cross the county line into
Koochiching.

Snowmobilers who attended made a symbolic, low-speed drive down
a track, but did not race.

The county’s act of defiance drew the attention of the new
Administration in Washington, D.C. West flew to Washington to
discuss the matter with newly appointed officials in the Department
of Interior, who decided not to pursue it.

She says the Washington trip was largely done for other business
matters and not as a result of the race. She also said that it was
unlikely the previous Administration would have handled the matter
differently.

The park is in the midst of preparing a general management
plan.

The original draft had eliminated an existing special use zone
on Lake Kabetogama in front of the resorts. West has agreed to
reinstate the special use zone. However, snowmobile races will
still be prohibited.

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