To demonstrate how a horse trail can be an element of protected government lands, local horse enthusiasts gathered together this past Tuesday to host a trail ride. They invited DNR officials from various agencies to come along for that ride and to see firsthand just how landscape in a piece of state owned land can be shared by everyone.
A piece of land known as the Whispering Ridge Aquatic Management Area (AMA), which is now owned by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), is an area open to recreational opportunities. Whether one is a hunter, fisherman or a naturalist, there is plenty to see and do in this historic and scenic ground in the Minnesota River Valley. What makes the AMA unique is a horse trail loop that runs through a portion of the land allowing those who ride to enjoy the flora and fauna that makes up Whispering Ridge. The horse trail is unique in that on a typical AMA piece of land horse trails are not part of the equation because of existing rules within the DNR. In an effort to demonstrate just how a horse trail can be an element of an AMA or other similar areas, local horse enthusiasts gathered together this past Tuesday to host a trail ride. They invited DNR officials from various agencies to come along for that ride and to see firsthand just how landscape in a piece of state owned land can be shared by everyone. Several of those leaders visited the site and experienced trail riding, fishing and hiking in the AMA. The trails, which were groomed over the past several months by people like Marv Breitkreutz, have been used by local horse riders for years. “They were old cattle paths,” said Breitkreutz, adding the cattle farmers in the area would allow the animals to move along in the area as they went from pasture to pasture. While local leaders helped to put the event together they received significant support from a major horse group known as the Minnesota Trail Riders Association (MTRA), and many of its members were on hand to help promote the area. Among the riders was Irv Parker, who is the current president of the MTRA. “This is my first time here,” said Parker early Tuesday morning as he readied he and his wife’s animals for the ride. “It seems to be a good place.” Parker said the goal of MTRA in attending these kinds of events is to be an advocate for trails in the state. Currently, Parker said, there are more than 1,000 miles of trail in the state which are publicly owned. “When the people who opened up this area came they weren’t riding bicycle,”?added Parker after taking part in the ride. “What we want is for more people to see what we see on the back of a horse.” DNR representatives from various departments were on hand, and they were able to see on the back of a horse or by way of a hike along the trail to get a view of what Whispering Ridge has to offer from the granite rock outcroppings to unique vegetation. “This was a real treat and a good education,” said Dennis Frederickson, who serves as the south region director of the DNR. “An event like this offers a chance for us to talk about trails and to experience them.” Frederickson said the value of an area like Whispering Ridge is that it offers an opportunity for all areas of recreation to be knit together. For that kind of co-existence to occur rules are going to have to be changed at the legislative level, and it appears from the conversations held at the Tuesday event there are leaders within the DNR who are willing to look into how that would work. According to Loran Kaardal of Green Corridor, Inc., which helped take Whispering Ridge AMA?from privately owned land to a place for the public to enjoy, discussions are taking place at the state level with the idea to create a new land use concept called the conservation recreation area which would allow for multi-use opportunities on public land. “They (the DNR) have heard our voice,”?said Kaardal, “and it seems like they are willing to work with groups to create language that would lead to a sharing of the landscape.” Hearing that message certainly is a change from recent DNR positions, and local leaders believe it is a change in the right direction.