Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Follow up on the Duluth Travers: Duluth MTB town master plan

To get your stoke on for moving to Duluth or MN in that fact, or to get other Minnesotans excited about future destination riding areas in our state. This could honestly be the greatest thing to happen to our state in the terms of MTB ever and if not at least on par with Cuyuna and the Brainard lakes projects that are going on up there with Cut Lake and Pillsbury Forest hopefully getting built in the near future! Northern MN is blowing up in the MTB scene and I hope it doesn't stop!
Here is a Q&A about the Duluth traverse plan:

How was the Legacy grant acquired?
COGGS volunteer, Daryl Peterson, wrote the Legacy grant request and worked with the City of Duluth to apply. Legacy grants can only be acquired by major governmental agencies like a city or county. We originally wrote the grant for $100,000. However, after the State shutdown in the summer of 2011 postponed the grants, the Legacy grant funding changed from a 25% match to a 10% match and the deadlines were changed. After a meeting with Mayor Don Ness, COGGS and the City decided to apply for the full $500,000 amount. The City of Duluth was awarded $250,000 for construction of the Duluth Traverse by the MN DNR in December of 2011.

How much money is available for building the Duluth Traverse in 2012?
The Legacy grant is for $250,000 and the City of Duluth has agreed to contribute $100,000 to this project. We also have had smaller grants (Bikes Belong - $10,000, Parks Commision - $2000, Healthy Duluth Coalition - $4,000, Duluth Superior Community Foundation - $1,000) that have contributed $17,000. This, along with the $25,000 COGGS has fundraised privately equals $392,000 that is available for the DT in 2012 or was spent on planning/consulting in 2011. Thanks to our awesome team of grant writers and the City of Duluth’s support, our memberships’ contributions of $25,000 have been multiplied 16 times!

How will the money from the Legacy grant be spent?
The City of Duluth has won the Legacy grant, not COGGS. COGGS is ineligible to win a Legacy grant, it must be won by a governmental agency. However, the Legacy grant was written to fund the Duluth Traverse, so all $250,000 will go through the City to build the first phase of the Duluth Traverse. The City and COGGS have a Memorandum of Understanding in place allowing us to make joint decisions for the Duluth Traverse. This is a massive, multi-year project that will be done in many phases. For 2012, COGGS and the City of Duluth have prioritized finishing 3 miles of trail in Lester Park and beginning the construction of a substantial trail network in Mission Creek. The reason for these prioritizations are because we already have a professionally laid out trail corridor in Lester Park and it is one of the most highly used parks for outdoor recreation. By finishing the Lester system with 3 miles of professionally built trail with great flow, it will be a great example of the quality of trail that can be built using professionals and what can be expected for the rest of the Duluth Traverse. Mission Creek is a priority because it is a giant City park with excellent terrain for mountain biking and little barriers to trail development. Basically it is a blank canvas and the only area in Duluth where we can build a Cuyuna like system with double-digit miles of flow trail and loops of varying difficulty. The money will actually be spent on paying consultants to design the trail and contractors to build it. Our purpose for hiring professionals is two-fold. First and foremost, it’s because we want to build high quality, world-class trails. If we want the best trails possible, the best trailbuilders will be needed to design and build them. That means hiring people who build trails for a living and whose resumes include building the epic trails from all over the world. Our second reason for hiring pros is to accelerate how soon these world-class trails can be built. With significant funds available, we can hire a pro trailbuilding organization to come to Duluth with multiple machines and highly experienced operators and build more miles of trail in a month than we can in two years with volunteer labor alone.

Because the State Legacy grant has stringent environmental criteria, COGGS and the City of Duluth are spending their winter working on an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW), which requires an extensive review process. This is a very time-consuming process that is pushing the construction start date back to mid-July of 2012 at the earliest. Depending on how the many month review process of the EAW goes, it’s conceivable that our full authorization to build could be late into September or October, which could be too late to be able to hire a contractor to be able to build enough trail to make it worth the mobilization. We are working hard to avoid this scenario because we don’t want to lose momentum by losing our entire building season. The ways we are working to prevent this are going full gas on the environmental permits right now and also working on fundraising to be able to directly hire a contractor without the timely bidding process required by the Legacy grant to at least finish the Lester Park trail system this year once we have the EAW finished in July.

How much with the Duluth Traverse cost?

Our very rough estimates range from 1.6 to 2 million dollars. This includes having professional trail builders build world class looped systems from five different trail hubs (Lester, Hartley, Piedmont, Spirit Mountain and Mission Creek) and connecting them all with beginner level singletrack, called the Connector Trail. It’s expensive to have pro’s build the trail, but it’s the only way to build world-class trails in a timely manner. Estimated costs for pros building trail is $16,000/mile for easy terrain, $21,000/mile for moderate terrain and $42,000/mile for difficult terrain (read: rocky soil, and we have a lot of it). We also hope to build two bike parks, one in West Duluth and one at the Arlington athletic complex, and full-on downhill trails at Spirit Mountain. As you can see, although the $250,000 Legacy grant is an outstanding asset, it only gets us approximately 1/8 of the way to our goal of making Duluth the premier trail city in North America.

What kind of trail is the Duluth Traverse going to be?
COGGS vision for the Duluth Traverse is to build trails for all levels of riding ability. Duluth has a serious lack of beginner trails and it is a major hurdle to those who are new to the sport so this will be a focus. The Connector Trail is our name for a contiguous beginner level trail that will be the backbone of the Duluth Traverse. So from Lester Park to Fond du Lac there will be a beginner level flow trail. At our five trail hubs, we will have beginner, intermediate and advanced trails. Most of our current hubs already have plenty of intermediate and some advanced riding, but additional challenging trail will be built too. One consistent theme for all levels of trail will be flow. Flow is the often-used term to refer to trails that allow you to keep your momentum by not having unnecessarily sharp corners or unsustainable elevation changes. Riding a trail with good flow is similar to downhill skiing in powder. Whether the trail is for beginner or advanced riders, it’s not going to have unnecessary momentum killers, although the more difficult trails will have plenty of rock obstacles, other features and opportunities to get air. Along with these cross country trails, we also hope to build a full-on double black diamond downhill trails at Spirit Mountain and two bike parks with dirt jumps, pump tracks and skills park.

What will be the impact of the Duluth Traverse?

The Duluth Traverse is being built to IMBA (International Mountain Bike Association) standards for sustainable trail design and construction. This will minimize any impact on the environment and also minimize the costs of maintenance. The Duluth Traverse impact will have a much bigger impact on Duluth’s tourism industry and the economy than it will on the natural environment. The quality, size, and beautiful terrain will make it a regional draw and will bring riders here for multi-day vacations where they will also be able to enjoy all the other attractions that Duluth has to offer. The Duluth Traverse will help build a sense of inter-connectedness and community by connecting our parks with a greenway trail system. It will be one more reason why Duluth is increasingly becoming a great place to live, work, and play. The trail system will also be an economic engine attracting business owners and prospective employees to Duluth who want to take advantage of the recreational opportunities that the Duluth Traverse represents. But more importantly than all of that, it allows all of us out the door access to world class trails.

Who can use the Duluth Traverse trail system?
The Duluth Traverse trail system, though purpose built for mountain biking, will be suitable for many human powered recreational users such as trail running, hiking, dog-walking, nature watching, and snowshoeing. All of these sports are lifetime sports so people of all ages will be able to enjoy using the Duluth Traverse and it will contribute to a healthy and life-long active lifestyle. The trail system will pass near and benefit all Duluthians and visitors alike. It will make it easy for everyone to get out and enjoy Duluth’s beautiful park system and natural environment.

COGGS is rich now, so fundraising is done, right?

Sorry, but no. Because of winning four smaller grants and fundraising, COGGS currently has about $35,000 in the Duluth Traverse account and $10,000 in our operating account. $25,000 of the Duluth Traverse account will go towards the 10% match we need to fulfill our Legacy grant application (Pretty nice when we can multiply everyone’s contributions by 10). The remaining $10,000 may be used as matches for other grants, to pay for smaller projects, paying for environmental assessments or permitting and hiring consultants. Plus, in order to keep the project rolling, we’re going to be applying for the next round of Legacy grants and other grant opportunities, all of which will need match money. In order to keep this exciting project moving forward, fundraising is going to be a top priority from now until it’s done.

We can all quit building trail now because we can hire pros to do it, right?
COGGS has always been and will always be a group of people committed to building and maintaining trails. We currently have a system of 30 miles of existing trail that still needs a lot of work be become sustainable and be accessible to all types of riders. This will require a lot of volunteer trailwork to accomplish. As we mentioned above, hiring pros to build trail is expensive. As the Duluth Traverse is being built there may also be opportunities to supplement the professional trail labor with volunteer labor to increase the efficiency of the trail construction, especially with manual labor-intensive tasks such as clearing corridor and finishing work. Also, now that COGGS has put time and effort into training on how to build quality, sustainable trail, we are capable of transforming our network of marginal trails into something truly special. So we will still be picking up our pulaskis and mcleods every single week to make our trails better for everyone who uses them. Projects that will require volunteer trailwork for 2012 include:

· Significant reroutes on both east and west sides of Seven Bridges Rd in Lester
· Rehabilitating the Superior Hiking Trail to be sustainable from Hawk Ridge to Hartley, which COGGS has gained approval to be multi-use.
· Reroute of beginning and end of Guardrail loops in Hartley
· Several reroutes in Piedmont
· Building of 1 mile advanced loop called the Kissing Booth in Brewer Park
· 1-2 mile beginner loop near Spirit Mtn campground.

What is COGGS relationship with IMBA?

In 2011 COGGS became a chapter of the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA), an International organization that supports the interests of mountain bikers and a world leader in sustainable trail design and construction techniques.. What that means is that COGGS can now use IMBA’s resources to manage many aspects of our membership and promotions and part of the money that is taken in with memberships is shared with IMBA in a 60/40 split. IMBA will send each COGGS member renewal notices and will also send new members their membership gift. The reason COGGS became a chapter of IMBA is because IMBA has directly and indirectly had a hand in COGGS winning the $10,000 Bikes Belong grant and the $250,000 State Legacy grant, donated $7,000 of professional trail consulting towards the Duluth Traverse and their 2010 Trail Care Crew taught our entire team of volunteer trail builders sustainable trail design and construction, which is valued at $6,000. That means COGGS has received $274,000 of money and services that honestly would not have happened without IMBA’s support. Joining IMBA as a chapter, giving part of our membership dollars back to IMBA, and strengthening IMBA with our membership was the right thing to do so that they can continue to support us and other clubs like us.

How can I help?

First and foremost, join COGGS, encourage your friends to join COGGS as well and make it an annual practice to renew your membership. Since COGGS is now a chapter of IMBA, membership brings with it some nice benefits like magazine subscriptions and a variety of discounts. Second, contribute some of your time and money to COGGS and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Think to yourself what is it worth to you to be able to ride great trails right here in your hometown. Since COGGS is now a 501©3 organization your donations can be made tax deductible. COGGS has trail workdays where members get together and work on sections of trail for a few hours. These efforts are fun, good exercise, and surprisingly rewarding when you ride along the sections of trail that you helped build and maintain. Also consider joining the COGGS board or putting some of your special skill sets to work in some other way helping COGGS such as fundraising, grant writing, organizing social events, etc… Spread the word and let others know what COGGS and Duluth’s trail systems mean to you.


  1. yeah it is going to be pretty sweet, not sure the exact time frame yet but I sure hope they get spirit mtn up and going soon! This would bring MN on the map for sure! at least for midwest riding!