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Progress continues on Duluth mountain bike trail system

With a flurry of mountain-bike trail construction last fall and continuing this summer, Duluth now boasts 60 miles of trails. Just this past week, Duluth was named a Gold-Level Ride Center by the International Mountain Bicycling Association -- on...

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Nate Tubbs, part of a trail-building crew working in the Mission Creek area of Duluth, picks up trees cut from around the trail's backslope and hauls them off into the woods so they won't be an eyesore Saturday. The mountain bike trail is being built by Rock Solid Trail Contracting and is funded by a Federal Recreational Trail Program grant. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com

With a flurry of mountain-bike trail construction last fall and continuing this summer, Duluth now boasts 60 miles of trails.

Just this past week, Duluth was named a Gold-Level Ride Center by the International Mountain Bicycling Association - one of just six such designations in the world.

The group Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS), with lots of support from the city and partners in the business community, is leading the effort to expand Duluth's mountain-biking trail system. New trail construction and extensive trail repair are happening from Mission Creek in the Fond du Lac neighborhood to the Lester River in eastern Duluth.

The trail work is being done with grants and generous donations from local businesses, said Waylon Munch, chair of COGGS.

"The biggest thing we have going for us is that the community is behind us," he said. "We have a strong riding community, and people are buying into what we are doing. Businesses are donating great sums of money. We're at a record level of paid members. There's been a crazy uptick of involvement and support in maintaining trails on a weekly basis."

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Much of this summer's mountain-biking trail work is on segments of the Duluth Traverse, a beginner-level mountain biking trail that will stretch from one end of Duluth to the other and connect riders with other trail systems along the way. Trail-building crews from both COGGS and Rock Solid Trail Contracting have completed several trails and are still building.

Here's a summary from COGGS of what trail crews have accomplished or have under way this summer:

• Opened two miles of the Hawk Ridge section of the Duluth Traverse Trail built by a COGGS trail crew. The trail starts at Skyline Parkway near Amity Creek and reconnects with Skyline Parkway about two miles west of there.

• Completely repaired the often-muddy sections of the Lester River Trail (a section of the Duluth Traverse trail) by filling low spots with rock, gravel and dirt. This was done over the past month by a COGGS trail crew.

• Opened a new one-mile advanced mountain-biking loop, hand-built by volunteers, in Brewer Park, called The Kissing Booth.

• Soon to be completed: Six miles of new trail in the Mission Creek area near Fond du Lac will be opening in coming weeks. Started last fall, this trail is being built by Rock Solid Trail Contracting and is funded by a Federal Recreational Trail Program grant.

• The next section of Duluth Traverse Trail to be built will be a two-mile section below Enger Tower. It will be built by Rock Solid Trail Contracting and funded by a Federal Recreational Trail Program grant. That will occur this summer and fall.

Already-existing portions of the Duluth Traverse and other trail networks are in place along the Lester River, Amity Creek, Hartley Park, Piedmont, Brewer Park, Spirit Mountain and Mission Creek.

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The new and existing trails offer various levels of difficulty for a range of riders, said Nick Monson, manager of Twin Ports Cyclery.

"I think it's a fantastic opportunity for people of all skill levels to really get into mountain biking for the first time or advance what they're doing," Monson said. "The variety of trails we have in Duluth is unbelievable."

The trail work will continue as COGGS raises more money and secures more grants for construction.

"The pace that we're building trail now is unprecedented," Munch said. "I hear that from other bike clubs in the region and from around the country. Nobody is putting trail on the ground like we are."

Monson cited the Gold-Level ranking bestowed upon the city's trails by the IMBA last week.

"That's an amazing accolade for us to get," he said. "We've only been doing this, really, since 2009. Six years. That's amazing."

Sam Cook is a freelance writer for the News Tribune. Reach him at cooksam48@gmail.com or find his Facebook page at facebook.com/sam.cook.5249.
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