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Trail developments, plans detailed

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outdoors Brainerd, 56401
Brainerd Dispatch
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Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

CROSBY — New developments are moving forward for biking trails — both paved and not — in Cuyuna country.

The progress was discussed Tuesday at an Unlimited Learning event at Heartwood Senior Living Community in Crosby.

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The first development is with the Cuyuna Lakes State Trail, a paved seven-mile trail that now runs from Riverton to Crosby. It now has a master plan to expand all the way to Aitkin and down to Brainerd, totalling 40 miles.

But the dream is still far from completion, said Jenny Smith, owner of Cycle Path and Paddle in Crosby. Smith guesses it will be another two decades before the whole system is complete.

A major component of that is funding. Smith and other local drivers of the effort expect about $1.27 million in state funding to come in within the next year to pay for part of the project, but a large chunk of the paved trail will still need to be funded somehow.

The first installment of the project will likely start in 2015. That will extend the trail from where it stops now in Crosby to Deerwood. It will also extend the trail from where it stops now in Riverton, through the town and into the Sagamore Mine unit.

The next step will be to expand the trail from Deerwood to Aitkin, as well as from the Sagamore Mine unit into Brainerd. There’s no estimated start date, as a funding source still needs to be identified.

There are a few obstacles with that phase, Smith said. The first, working to get the trail around the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport will be a long process. The second, it will require a bridge be built over Sand Creek.

Once the whole extension project is done, it will be part of the Mississippi River Trail. That alone will bring visitors in from across the nation and world, Smith said.

“It’s a fabulous way to connect to nature,” Smith said. “It’s a great escape.”

As for the mountain bike trails, a couple of improvements will add ease for biking enthusiasts.

The first is the parking lot between the Pennington Mine Lake and Huntington Mine Lake, which will be expanded by about 90 parking spots this summer, probably starting in June.

The area will be divided into a place for anglers to park and a place for bikers. In the biking area, there will be a washing station and a repair station for bikes. There will be more picnic tables and an access built to Huntington.

The second project is in Yawkey, where three yurts, or Mongolian-style tents, will be built for year-around camping.

Each will be 20-feet wide and can sleep six people. It will allow outdoor lovers to stay warm in the winter while camping, as well as a comfortable place to sleep in summer.

The 25 miles of mountain bike trails have brought in plenty of traffic in the three years of operation, officials say.

The first year brought in about 15,000 bikers, which grew to 22,000 bikers the next year. The numbers for 2013 are yet to be tallied.

“There’s something special in those trails,” said Steve Weber, with the Department of Natural Resources and manager of the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area.

It’s especially special, he said, because very few places in the world have dedicated similar amount of funds, about $1 million, to solely mountain biking trail development.

For 2014, the DNR will probably start requiring state park passes for parking in the mining units. There is no fee for riding the mountain bike trails.

The ultimate goal is to have 100 miles of mountain bike trails, Smith said.

“We’ve got a ways to go yet, but there’s a master plan out there,” she said.

There’s also a deep need for lodging out in the Cuyuna area, she added.

The whole push of mountain biking was probably not expected by many area residents, Smith added.

“Not many people realized the gold mine we had out there in the mining pits,” she said.

“The mountain bike trails are the best thing to happen to this area.”

JESSICA LARSEN, staff writer, may be reached at jessica.larsen@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brainerdnews.

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