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Cuyuna mountain bike trail expansion plan unveiled

CROSBY - A just-released vision for the expansion of the Cuyuna mountain bike trails could have a $21 million impact on regional economy when built, supporters say.

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CROSBY - A just-released vision for the expansion of the Cuyuna mountain bike trails could have a $21 million impact on regional economy when built, supporters say.

Plus, it'll give the bike riders an extra two days of trails to explore, without repeating tracks.

Right now, with 25 miles of mountain bike trails, the average rider can cruise them all in one day, said Aaron Hautala, president of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew (Crew), one of the organizations behind the master vision. With the proposed expansion, it'll take three days.

That means more visitors staying overnight and spending money at shops, restaurants and other attractions, Hautala said.

That's where the economic impact skyrockets. The trails have about a $2 million annual economic impact right now. Conservatively, that could jump to $21 million, he said.

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But the new trail improvements will come at a cost: $6 million.

The Crew, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and other supporters are hoping to gather up enough financial support from the region to make the vision a reality by 2020. Though Hautala admits the timeline is a "lofty" goal it's still one to get excited about, he said.

The vision, three years in the making, was unveiled at the Crew's annual meeting Thursday.

It was crafted in conjunction with the Minnesota DNR, Crow Wing County, the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), and IMBA Trail Solutions.

It includes the potential types, lengths and placement of the trails. It's still just a draft, so it could change.

Here's a look into what the mountain bike trails could look like after the vision is fulfilled:

Ultimately, the new plan connects all mountain biking units together, so bikers can get to each unit without having to drive. It connects the communities as well, supporters say.

The plan calls for every current trail that has two-way traffic to be reduced down to one-way for safety. It will implement true beginner and expert trails to "increase the depth and variety of experience" for everyone.

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The trails will be longer, up to 10 miles in some areas, and will have fewer intersections. The longest trail right now is one mile and there are plenty of intersections to new trails.

Additionally, each new trail will be built to allow for winter riding. Only two units right now are able to have winter riding.

In the plan, four new areas could see trails: The Maroco unit in Trommald, the Blackhoof unit in Ironton, Section 36 in Cuyuna, and Cuyuna Hills in Cuyuna.

In the Maroco unit, a new expert trail will offer riders a "backcountry adventure." Some areas will have a boardwalk because of the low ground levels. It calls for about 13.5 miles of new trail.

In the Blackhoof unit near Ironton, trails will all be made single direction. Beginner trails will be constructed, with connected intermediate "hot laps" so more advanced riders can jump off and still ride along side their not-so-experienced partners. This area could see about 5.5 miles of new trails.

By Pennington mine pit lake, an expert trail could be constructed with the acquisition of some new land.

There's another plan in place for that unit for an "overdrive skills area" to let riders of all skill sets practice. Supporters are now working on the final placement plan. This area calls for about four new miles of trails.

In the Cuyuna Hills County Recreation Land outside the city of Cuyuna, 10 miles of trails could be built on the 100-foot rolling hills.

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Current trail units could see some upgrades, too, according to the vision.

At the Yawkey unit in Crosby, trails will all be made single direction and a new gravity flow trail will be constructed. A new entry trail will likely be constructed this upcoming season. There's an estimated 1.5 miles of new single track here.

At the Portsmouth unit in Crosby, trails will all be made single direction and two new miles of track are likely to be constructed this upcoming season.

This is also where True North BaseCamp has plans to build eight waterfront cabins and 28 campsites. The site, which could be open by July 1, will have bike and water access.

In Cuyuna, where the pump track sits, five miles of trail will be added to connect the track to other trail units.

In Riverton's Sagamore unit, a loop could be built around the whole lake to create an event race trail. In the winter, a trail will allow for bikers to cross the frozen water.

This area calls for about eight miles of track.

In a recent survey put out by the Crew, 64 percent of those who responded said they hadn't heard of or visited the Cuyuna area before riding the mountain bike trails.

What's more, the respondents wanted better access and signage in Crosby and Ironton to the trails, as well as better biking parking in town, more beginner and more advanced trails, a brew pub, events like concerts and festivals, more camping spots, hotels and shop diversity.

"If we're going to do this, let's do it so it can sustain the economy," Hautala said of the new trail plan.

He continued, "We want this to draw in people. ...We want people to vacation here and wish they lived here."

Scott Kelling, director of the region for the Minnesota DNR, said Cuyuna is working its way up to the "iconic status" like some of the other state destinations and parks in the state.

Hautala summed it up: "Cuyuna isn't just a place. Cuyuna is not just a trail. Cuyuna is a way of life."

Related Topics: CUYUNA
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