Date of Report: May 18, 2021
Official Report: Washburn County ATV trails are generally closed at this time. The only exceptions to this spring closure are the Wild River Trail and the Railroad Grade to Shell Lake, which remain open unless DNR Fire Danger is rated at Very High or Higher.
Washburn County has significant investments in the development and maintenance of these trails and one of the main reasons that the spring closure is used is to protect trail surfaces during periods of wet, unstable soil conditions. Trails are frozen during winter months and the repeated traffic from groomers and snowmobiles drives frost deep into the underlying soils. These trails generally begin to thaw in mid-March and sub-surface remain soft until the thaw is complete and water can filter through the soils normally. In a normal year, trail surfaces dry out and stabilize by mid to late May.
Springtime also brings periods of very high fire danger. ATV/UTV activity, and increased recreational use in general, increases risk of wildfire. Some of the largest and most devastating wildfires in Wisconsin have occurred during mid-May. The Washburn County Code of Ordinances creates closure of ATV trails through the first Friday before Memorial Weekend. This same ordinance does grant our Department the ability to open trails early if conditions permit.
We are monitoring trail conditions and fire danger daily to determine if/when we can allow for an early opener. One rule of thumb that we, and the public can use, is the amount of new leaves and vegetation in the wooded areas. This “green up” is generally an indicator of lower fire danger and more stable soil conditions on our trails.
We receive a lot of compliments on the quality of our trail systems here. One of the main reasons that our trails stay in good shape is our ability to close them during muddy and unstable conditions in the spring.
Please note that since Memorial weekend is late in the month this year, we are going to make every effort to open trails before the holiday weekend. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Mike Peterson – Washburn County Forest Administrator
Rolling Hills Snowmobile & ATV Club Reminder: Trail 7A from the Wild River Trail going west is closed! Contractors are working in that area. Please stay away to keep everyone safe!