Bicycling group looking to improve, expand Duluth trail systemsFive years ago, Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores announced its vision of creating a nearly 100-mile trail system connecting major trail networks in the city of Duluth. Today, COGGS and the city of Duluth are on the brink of starting the trail system'’s first phase: the nearly 40-mile Duluth Traverse Trail System
By: Julie Krienke, Duluth Budgeteer News
Five years ago, Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores announced its vision of creating a nearly 100-mile trail system connecting major trail networks in the city of Duluth. Today, COGGS and the city of Duluth are on the brink of starting the trail system'’s first phase: the nearly 40-mile Duluth Traverse Trail System.
The Duluth Traverse would link trails in Lester Park, Hartley Park, Piedmont-Brewer Park, Mission Creek, and Spirit Mountain to a nearly 40-mile multi-use trail spanning the length of the city. COGGS has already made headway on the project with its work improving trails in Lester Park, Hartley Park and Piedmont-Brewer Park.
“Duluth is known as an outdoor town, but we have a pretty disjointed trail system that people get lost on,” said Adam Sundberg, chairman of the COGGS board. “Part of it is just making our trail system more user friendly, easy to navigate, and sustainable.”
Sundberg said the Duluth Traverse would help to boost Duluth's status as an outdoor tourism destination.
“We have 3.5 million tourist visits annually,” he said. “So we have the infrastructure to accommodate an influx of people recreating on our trails.”
Sundberg added that the nearby Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association system brings in $4 million a year from visiting mountain bikers.
To improve three of Duluth's trails, COGGS used its nearly 50 hand tools, along with volunteer labor from members, to get the trails up to International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) standards. Sundberg said the group works to build up trails so they shed water after heavy rain and can still be used.
COGGS was created in 1994 when a group of mountain bikers came together to see what could be done to improve the multi-use trails they rode on. Now made up of nearly 390 members from the Duluth area, COGGS maintains more than 30 miles of trails in Duluth, hosts weekly rides for members, and holds monthly meetings that are open to the public.
“I think that just having access to outdoor recreation is key for any community, and it's a big factor for getting kids active,” said Sundberg, who’s lived in Duluth over six years. “Duluth is very fortunate in that there is a lot of park space and green land people can get out and enjoy.”
In 2011, the city of Duluth was awarded a $250,000 Parks and Trails Legacy grant from the DNR to be used for the Duluth Traverse project. COGGS and the city of Duluth are still in the process of receiving the grant. COGGS will also receive $100,000 annually from the city of Duluth’s Park fund until the Duluth Traverse project
“The traverse is something that many city staff, including the mayor, support,” said Kathy Bergen, manager of the Duluth Parks and Recreations Department. “COGGS has the knowledge and skills and the volunteer labor and vision for this trail. We’ve partnered with them to find funding to build the trail.”
“It's my goal to make Duluth the premier trail city in the nation,” Mayor Don Ness said. “Paved trails, hiking trails, ski trails, and single-track bike trails are all critical elements of our trail system. We’re going to have three world-class, cross-city trail systems that not only connect neighborhoods, but also encourage a more active lifestyle.
“Our trail systems highlight so many of Duluth’s greatest assets — abundant green space, incredible vistas, and an active and healthy community,” Ness added. “COGGS is doing incredible work, and the city stands ready to partner with them to create a world-class system in our city.”
Sundberg said the organization plans to have professional contractors begin building trails in late summer 2012 and into fall 2012 as part of the project’s first phase. To help move this process along, COGGS became a member of IMBA in 2011.
Hansi Johnson of Duluth is the Midwest regional director for IMBA and works with 73 clubs in more than five states. He helps nonprofit organizations like COGGS get resources to build trails.
Professional trail builders from IMBA came to Duluth in 2009 to teach COGGS members and other Duluthians about building sustainable trails.
“COGGS has really been involved at the city level, and that's something I'’ve pushed and promoted,” said Johnson, who’s a member of the organization. “Something that's certainly been going on in our city is that the budget is tight, and outside groups need to come in and help manage properties.”
Matt Edingson oversees the volunteer trail work design maintenance for COGGS. He said the idea to build the Duluth Traverse came about when members wanted to build a system unique to the Duluth area.
“We started improving the existing trails first,” Edingson said. “With those successes, we said, ‘Gosh, we can see more potential.’ That was the origin of the Duluth Traverse, knowing that we could actually connect those trails.”
Estimates that COGGS has received on the cost of hiring professional contractors to build the trails range from $3,000 to $10,000 per mile depending on the type of terrain, according to the organization's website. To complete the project, COGGS estimates the cost at $1.6 million to $2 million.
“It’s a huge undertaking in the logistics and financing,” Edingson said. “It’s a project that ultimately we have to do in phases. We need to keep tasks at hand with the big vision in mind.”
Edingson said the first phase, to be started this summer, will be to add a five-mile loop of multi-use trail in Lester Park. Currently, the park has 4.5 miles of trail. The project will include building trails in areas where no multi-use trails exist and improving existing systems to make them more sustainable.
“It’s been a continued effort by those in the community who enjoy the idea of the trail,” Edingson said. “These are the right people at the right time in the right place.”
To learn more about the individual projects making up the Duluth Traverse project, visit www.coggs.com and click the “Duluth Traverse” link at the top. For more information on IMBA, visit www.imba.com.