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Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area: More jumps, safer riding part of expansion coming to trails

A mountain biker explores the trails through the Cuyuna Country Recreation Area. Submitted photo

Better safety and a better experience are top reasons for three new phases of construction coming to the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area in August.

Improvements coming soon to the popular 25-mile mountain bike trail system at the recreation area will add trail miles and skill-building features and improve traffic flow, according to a Minnesota DNR news release.

Three projects will take place within the trail system's Mahnomen Unit, located along the shore of Huntington Mine Lake and adjacent to the Miner's Mountain Rally Center.

Project 1

• Adds 3.4 miles of new trail.

• Eliminates two-way traffic on Easy Street Trail and allows for one-way travel all the way around Huntington Mine Lake.

• Adds "jumpable" features every thousand feet.

• Creates a new trail connection to the city of Crosby.

Those who've pedaled down a two-way trail know well the feeling of turning a corner into an oncoming cyclist. Eliminating the two-way traffic is a top priority and one feature that Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew President Aaron Hautala said will make a much safer ride and improve the overall experience.

"We have so many families, so many kids and so many people on the weekend that now when we can go one direction throughout the whole system, you're able to put a lot more people on the trail without people knowing there is a lot more people on the trail," Hautala said.

"Jumpable" features? If simply riding a curving trail along breathtaking vistas isn't enough, this feature will likely lift spirits. Added jumps, mostly dirt "rollers" give riders the option to either gently roll over them or use some speed to launch skyward.

"It will be built so you can (jump) and land safely on the backside of the hill," Hautala said. "It, just again, provides that rock and roll experience that people love on a mountain bike."

The new access at Crosby opens up new opportunities for local riders to hop on the trail or for out-of-towners to stop in and pay a visit to a local business.

Project 2

• Eliminates 18 intersections to improve safety and traffic flow.

• Optimizes climbing and ascending experiences.

• Increases carrying capacity and safety.

Riding along the trails, people may notice intersections often offer cyclists other trail options, but which way is the right way for individual skill levels can be confusing. Project two seeks to remove the intersections while improving the navigation through the system for those new to the area.

"This is a big deal to people who have never been to Cuyuna before," Hautala said.

The removal of intersections and additional signage showing which trail may fit the cyclist skill level should make it easier for newcomers to easily maneuver through the system.

Starting at the Miner's Mountain Rally Center cyclists can enter one point and can continue nonstop, with no oncoming traffic and no stopping at intersections. Options will still exist to bail out if riders have their fill of grinding through red dirt trails.

"People can pick a route based on what they want," Hautala said. "It will make sense to a first-time rider."

Project 3

• Adds 1.4 miles of new trail.

• Creates skill-building features for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders.

The skill building area is another area Hautala is proud of as it provides a place for beginners, up to experts to practice their skills in a safe location off the main trails. Want to practice riding a skinny board or over a pile of rocks? Riders can do it in a grassy area rather than on the trail where they might fall into a much more painful situation.

These projects are made possible by the Parks and Trails Fund and a $33,505 fundraising effort spearheaded by the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew.

The Crew raised those funds in its first fundraising effort, Hautala said. It involved a $10,000 matching grant from Trek Bicycles.

The Parks and Trails Fund, created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008, receives 14.25 percent of the three-eighths percent sales tax revenue that may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.

Hautala was thankful to elected officials including Rep. Josh Heintzeman R-Nisswa, Rep. Dale Lueck R-Aitkin, Sen. Carrie Ruud R-Breezy Point, and Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, who helped see those dollars move forward two years ago. This development is one part of the broader vision, which continues to cruise along.

"It's been exciting to watch the growth in popularity of this great trail system over the past few years and see how the community and the volunteer Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew have supported continued development," said Kacie Carlson, interim manager of the state recreation area in a news release. "This couldn't happen without support from so many dedicated volunteers."

Annual visits to Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area have increased from 118,484 in 2010, before the mountain bike trails opened, to 185,613 in 2016.

INFO BOX

If you go

When the expansion project begins in August, visitors will be asked to avoid the sections of trail under construction and obey any closed or reroute signage. The project is expected to be completed prior to the winter riding season.

Construction updates will be posted in the trail notes section of the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area webpage. For more information, email the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us or call 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday.

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