Mountain bikers dream big in Duluth
100 miles of trail within city limits look possible
Duluth, Minnesota, already has a bounty of trails: Cross-country ski trails, the Superior Hiking Trail and the Lakewalk. Not enough for you? How about 100 miles of singletrack woven into the city? It's called the Duluth Traverse, and it's the vision of the Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (www.COGGS.com) based in Duluth.
There are already four destination mountain bike systems in Duluth: Lester-Amity, Hartley Park, Piedmont and Spirit Mountain. The goal of the Duluth Traverse is to link all the existing trail systems, expand them and create new destination systems.
"We have been approved by the county and city to add five additional miles to Lester-Amity and another five miles in Brewer Park" across Haines Road from Piedmont, Adam Sundberg, chairperson of COGGS, said. "We also hope to start connecting Lester to Hartley next year as well."
The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) donated the time of their most experienced trail designer to scout the terrain in Duluth this past spring. IMBA is creating a plan for a 20-mile system in Mission Creek that they hope to start next year.
Early cost estimates were $2,500 per mile, pushing fund-raising needs to $200,000 for the creation of the Duluth Traverse. The good news is that grants and private donations already have raised $26,000. This amount makes the club competitive for a three-to-one matching Parks Legacy grant of more than $100,000. However, Sundberg said the initial estimates were "probably low and it will be more like a $500,000 to 750,000 project."
While raising more funds locally will be necessary, Sundberg said there will also be a need for volunteers to do planning, publicity and eventually the trail work.
"The big help is people with unique skills using said skills to meet a need. For instance, we have volunteers where their day job is writing grants, GIS, fund raising, community relations, etc. Having those professional skills at our disposal is really helpful," he said.
This is an exciting project for this writer as I try to reconnect to the sport and introduce my kids to it as well. I took my son to last year's inaugural Great Hawk Chase mountain bike race on the Lester-Amity system. It was his first race and he had fun. I expect other beginners to fit into the Duluth Traverse plans.
"Basically, we want a portion of each trail and all of the trails' connecting hubs (Lester to Hartley, Piedmont to Spirit) to be beginner friendly," Sundberg said. "We realize there is a lack of easier trails here because there haven't been many trails purpose-built for mountain biking in Duluth. They are just hiking trails that mostly have been created by use. But Lester and Mission Creek have different soils and no rock which makes them much easier places (to build) easier trails."
The Duluth mountain bike scene will grow as the opportunities to ride are expanded and knit together, Sundberg said. He listed the city's elevation change, scenery and the popularity of outdoor recreation among many of it's 85,000 residents as reasons to believe the area can be a mountain biking destination.
"We can have riding every bit as good as Rapid City (South Dakota), Chequamegon and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan," Sundberg said. "We already have a town that is much more attractive for arts, culture, kids activities and shopping. That is what is really unique. There are very few urban areas that have 100 miles of mountain biking in them. You can count them on one hand and they are nowhere near here. It's truly a unique situation and very exciting to be a part of."
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