Tuesday, September 16, 2014

DNR to celebrate reopening of the Itasca State Park bike trail Sept. 18

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Division will celebrate the completed Itasca State Park bike trail on Thursday, Sept. 18, at 1 p.m. at the North Picnic Area.

The ceremony will include a ribbon-cutting event with remarks from Mike Carroll, DNR assistant commissioner; Erika Rivers, DNR Parks and Trails director; Chris Weir-Koetter, Parks and Trails strategic program manager; and Bob Chance, Itasca State Park manager.

Trail design and placement ensured that new segments of the trail avoided old growth forest areas, wetlands and archeological features while meeting current design standards for paved recreation trails.
“This was a remarkable planning effort to create a paved trail design that incorporated recreational opportunities while reducing impacts and protecting the park’s natural resources,” Weir-Koetter said.

Work was completed on more than 5 miles of the trail between the North Picnic Area and Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center. The completed trail includes a new segment on the east side of Main Park Drive, resurfaced and widened segments of the old trail and upgraded trail crossings on Main Park Drive. The obliterated segments of the trail (about 1 mile) are being restored to natural conditions.

“It’s great to see people getting outdoors on the trail. Bicycling at Itasca State Park is very popular,” said Luke Skinner, deputy director for the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. “Bikers can expect a safe and enjoyable experience while they meander through the incredibly scenic rolling hills of the park.”

The $1.5 million trail project was funded by the 2013 Legislature bonding bill, a Federal Recreation Trail Program grant and the Parks and Trails Fund, created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008. The Parks and Trails Fund receives 14.25 percent of the sales tax revenue and may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.

The celebration will also include an open house of the newly remodeled guesthouse in the Bear Paw line of cabins at the Bear Paw Campground.

The guesthouse has a rich history. Built in 1935, this historic cabin served as a camp store for park visitors and campers. In the early 1970s, it housed seasonal staff and was used for storage.

Because it is a historic building, the DNR collaborated with the Minnesota Historical Society and the State Historic Preservation Office, which approved the renovation. Remodeling began during the fall of 2013, using funds from the Parks and Trails Fund.

The log cabin has three bedrooms, two pull-out couches, a full kitchen, two bathrooms and a living area, and is ADA accessible. It combines modern comforts with a rustic feel and has a beautiful view of the lake.  Watch the visitor alert on the park’s Web page at www.mndnr.gov/itasca for reservation information.

"We're excited to offer this historic building as a place for folks to stay," said Bob Chance, Itasca State Park manager. “It is a great addition to the variety of lodging opportunities available at Itasca State Park. There is something for everyone here.”

For more information about the trail, including a map, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_trails/paul_bunyan. Trail information is also available from the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.