A landowner along the Superior Hiking Trail near Gooseberry Falls State Park is kicking the trail off his land starting May 1 after ongoing run-ins with hikers.

The move has forced a detour along one of the more popular segments of the trail just as the summer hiking season gets going.

Randy Bowe of Duluth says his family is fed up with the poor behavior from some people who are using the popular section of the trail that runs along the North Shore hillside.

“Ninety-five percent of the hikers are great. But those other 5 percent ruined it for the rest. It was going from two or three incidents each year to four or five,” said Bowe, an avid deer hunter and owner of Bowe Taxidermy in Duluth.

Bowe said he had problems with littering, trespassing and people camping and starting campfires on his land - all despite the fact that it is clearly posted as private property with “no trespassing” signs.

“We were cussed at for using our four-wheeler on our own trails. On our own land,” he said, noting that he has owned some of the land since the 1980s and purchased another, adjoining parcel in recent years.

The last straw came on Halloween weekend when an elderly friend of Bowe’s was bow hunting on the property.

“Three guys came up and gave him heck for being a hunter, basically said he was the devil. They proceeded to stay by his deer stand and howled like wolves for an hour. They ruined his hunt,” Bowe said.

The closed 1.6-mile portion of the trail on Bowe’s land runs from the from the northern boundary of Gooseberry Falls State Park to Blueberry Hill Road, on the way to the Split Rock River Wayside heading east.

A temporary detour already is set, and Superior Hiking Trail Association leaders are checking out a permanent reroute, mostly on state and county forest land nearby. But they still need to cross about a quarter-mile of private land. They are working to find that landowner to seek an easement.

“We have a good temporary detour option with the Gitchi Gami bike trail that offers a safe place for people to bypass this closure,” said Gayle Coyer, executive director of the Superior Hiking Trail Association. “But this is unfortunate because this is such a popular section, right in the heart of the trail.”

Most of the 296-mile trail from Duluth to the Canadian border is on public land. But the trail crosses about 50 segments of privately owned land. Many of those landowners have granted permanent easements for the trail, while some, as in this case, are simple permission access that can be terminated by the landowner at any time.

Coyer said the trail on the private land in question is clearly marked. The association had several signs urging hikers to stay on the trail, not to camp on the land and to respect private property.

“Unfortunately some people just weren’t doing that,” she said.

Bowe said Coyer and the trail association “were great to work with. They did everything they could. We had some sleepless nights wondering if this was the right thing to do … but it’s our property, and we shouldn’t have to run into this when we use it,” he said.

Coyer said this is the first time that any landowner has kicked the trail out since it opened in the 1980s.

For now, eastbound hikers will detour from the Gooseberry Falls State Park Visitor Center, cross on the pedestrian bridge over the river and travel for 2.1 miles on the Gitchi Gami State Trail  - parallel to Highway 61 - to the Blueberry Hill Road intersection.

At that point, there are two options. Hikers can either cross Highway 61 and walk 1.2 miles north on Blueberry Hill Road, a gravel Lake County road, to where it intersects the hiking trail and then then continue east on the hiking trail to the Split Rock River Wayside.

The other option is for hikers to continue east on the Gitchi Gami trail to the Split Rock River Wayside and use the box culvert underneath the highway to reach the parking lot and the continuation of the hiking trail.

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