The Crow Wing County Board of Commissioners approved at its Tuesday, Nov. 12, meeting the Cuyuna Connection and Cuyuna Hills Backcountry Trail Project.
“Part of the trail directly connects to the state mountain bike trail system and the other part is just over a mile away and is connected by public roads,” said Ryan Simonson, a county environmental services supervisor.
The Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew proposed a mountain bike trail in 2017 located in Cuyuna and Rabbit Lake Township. The plan calls for about 9 miles of new trail construction on county land and about 2 more miles on Minnesota Department of Natural Resources lands.
The county Natural Resources Advisory Committee reviewed and approved the trail proposal on Jan. 3, 2018, before a state-required environmental assessment worksheet was completed Oct. 31 by the DNR and the findings were favorable.
“We realized an EAW — an environmental assessment worksheet — was required because the project consisted of over 10 miles of new trail construction and was partially located on state lands,” Simonson told the board.
Maintenance and monitoring of the recreational trail system will be the responsibility of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew, with oversight conducted by the county land services department.
Crow Wing County Land Services Department creates a reference map of the Cuyuna Connection and Cuyuna Hills Backcountry Trail Project. Land Services / Crow Wing County
The proposed recreational trail system will be open to mountain biking and hiking from May through early November, and then groomed from December through March for fat-tire bicycling and snowshoeing.
“The EAW process includes its own separate public comment period, Natural Heritage (and Nongame Research Program) review, (Minnesota) State Historic Preservation Office review, a cultural resources survey in this case and consideration of many other factors,” Simonson said.
Two separate public comment periods occurred — one by the county and the other as part of the EAW by the DNR — with a total of 217 comments in favor of the project, one against and six that were neutral or not applicable comments, according to Simonson.
“Based on the consideration of all these factors, the DNR concluded that this proposal does not have the potential for significant environmental effects and that the project may proceed with permitting and approvals, which is why we’re here today,” Simonson told the commissioners.
The nearly 12 miles of proposed trails will include one new trailhead or parking area just south of Iron Hub Road in Cuyuna.
“I would also like to add that the Mountain Bike Crew will be fully funding this trail on their own. They have $670,000 between their own fundraising efforts as well as a matching grant from the Hallet fund,” Simonson said, referring to the Hallett Charitable Trusts.
“And so there will be no state grant or aid, or county dollars spent on the trail, which is pretty unique … and so I guess we’re just asking for approval of the trail at this point,” Simonson told the board.
Commissioner Doug Houge made the motion to approve the plan for the Cuyuna Connection and Cuyuna Hills Backcountry Trail Project and the non-motorized trail permit. Commissioner Paul Koering seconded the motion, and it was approved unanimously.
The proposed trail area encompasses 800 acres of Crow Wing County-managed public land and more than 320 acres of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources-managed forestland.
All 11.64 miles of proposed trail (including 9.33 on county-managed land) are new trails.
The trail proposal would connect to, and link, to over 30 miles of state and regional significance to the southwest in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area and create a contiguous loop of over 40.64 miles of designated single-track mountain bike trails in Crow Wing County.
Source: Crow Wing County Land Services Department