Cycling group working with Duluth officials to make city a major trails destinationMayor Don Ness wants to make Duluth a leading trails destination in the country, and he believes the city is well on the way to that goal.
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
Mayor Don Ness wants to make Duluth a leading trails destination in the country, and he believes the city is well on the way to that goal.
Speaking to a local bicycling group last week at Clyde Iron Works, Ness pledged to put another $100,000 of city money toward the Duluth Traverse, which will be a 100-mile biking and hiking system across the city. The Traverse, along with the existing 43 miles of the Superior Hiking Trail in Duluth and Duluth’s paved Lakewalk trail, will make the city unique, Ness said.
“When these three trail systems are in place, I think we can stand up and say Duluth is the premier trail city in North America,” Ness told the Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores, a local biking club that has partnered with the city to conceive and plan the Duluth Traverse.
When completed, perhaps by 2020, the Duluth Traverse will be a natural-surface trail about 18 to 22 inches wide for nonmotorized use by hikers and bicyclists. It will stretch from Jay Cooke State Park on the west to Lester Park on the east. It will be designed as a beginner-level trail for mountain bikers to link with the more advanced trails already in place at Spirit Mountain, Piedmont, Hartley Park and Lester Park, said Adam Sundberg, chairman of COGGS.
“Now, most people would agree we have a lack of beginner-level trails in the city,” Sundberg said. “(The Duluth Traverse) will be a beginner trail, so your grandma can ride it and your 6-year-old can ride it.”
COGGS and the city of Duluth also received a $250,000 grant from Minnesota’s Clean Water, Land and Legacy Fund in December 2011 for use on the Duluth Traverse.
The city already is spending $100,000 on Duluth’s trails this year. That money, and next year’s money earmarked for trails, comes from a parks and library referendum passed by voters in 2011. Ness foresees putting that much into the city’s trails as long as he’s in office, he said. Ness believes a premier trail system will help attract the kind of people that companies look for when they locate in Duluth.
“Companies are putting increasing emphasis on work force development,” he said, “and attracting the talent they need to be successful. … By investing in these natural amenities and recreational opportunities, we are making a strong case that talented people will want to live in Duluth.”
Most of the Duluth Traverse will be built on either city or county tax-forfeited land, Sundberg said. In addition to the cross-city portion of the trail, it will connect with existing single-track trails at Spirit Mountain, Piedmont, Hartley and Lester Park. A new hub will be created in the Mission Creek area of the Fond du Lac neighborhood.
COGGS is working with St. Louis County representatives as well as the city because much of the trail would cross county land. County Commissioner Frank Jewell, who represents part of Duluth on the County Board, likes the concept of the Duluth Traverse.
“I am enormously supportive of this, because I think the opportunity to have a world-class trail in Duluth is remarkable,” Jewell said. “I think it’s a great asset for the county as well as the city.”
Total cost of the trail is estimated at $1.6 million to $1.9 million, Sundberg said. Construction costs range from $16,000 to $42,000 per mile, he said. Most of the work will be done by private contractors. COGGS and the city have worked closely with the International Mountain Bicycling Association, which offers expertise in building environmentally sustainable trails.
IMBA representatives came to Duluth two years ago for a trail-building workshop, and a second IMBA trail-building workshop will be held Friday through Sunday in Duluth, said Hansi Johnson of Thomson, Midwest regional director for IMBA.
This summer, improvements have been made on single-track trails at Hartley Park and Lester Park to make them more sustainable, Sundberg said.
An Environmental Assessment Worksheet is under way for the Duluth Traverse and should be completed this winter, said Kit Grayson of Barr Engineering, who is supervising the EAW. Next summer, COGGS plans to build 3½ miles of new trail in Lester Park and a 12- to 15-mile trail system at Mission Creek, Sundberg said.
The city plans to complete an extension of the Lakewalk from 60th Avenue East to Brighton Beach by next year, Ness said. Another extension of the Lakewalk, from Bayfront Park to the Munger Trail, should be completed by the end of 2014, Ness said.
For more information on the Duluth Traverse, go to www.coggs.com.