Expect Gitchi growth spurtFans of the Gitchi-Gami State Trail got some good news this fall when it was announced that the Beaver Bay to Silver Bay portion should be paved in the spring.
By: Mike Creger, Lake County News Chronicle
Fans of the Gitchi-Gami State Trail got some good news this fall when it was announced that the Beaver Bay to Silver Bay portion should be paved in the spring. Trail president Scott Harrison said it’s been an intricate process to get the portion engineered and shovel-ready. “I’d like to see less of a gap from the time we raise funds to when we see asphalt,” he said.
The trick on this 4.5-mile stretch has been with easements, engineering, and coordinating with Northshore Mining for a tunnel under its railroad tracks in Silver Bay.
The Gitchi-Gami Trail, when completed, would offer an 86-mile paved route along Highway 61 from Two Harbors to Grand Marais. So far, 21 miles have been completed, the last portion in 2006. Used extensively by bicyclists, the longest stretch of continuous trail is 13.1 miles between Gooseberry Falls State Park and the Beaver River in Beaver Bay.
Minnesota DNR Trail Development Specialist Kevin Johnson said bids will go out for the Beaver Bay-Silver Bay section this winter with construction in the spring. The railroad underpass would go in during the expected Northshore shutdown next summer. The section was expected to be finished “a while ago,” Johnson said, but construction and easement agreements were slow in coming. The underpass culvert has been ordered and is ready to go in.
The economy and a tightening of state budgets hasn’t helped. There is no plan to span the Beaver River, the DNR doesn’t have the money, Johnson said.
The pace of trail section completion should pick up, Harrison said. Up to 4.5 miles in the Onion River and Lutsen areas are expected to be completed in 2010. A seven-mile section from Silver Bay to Tettegouche State Park remains three to four years out, Harrison said. It’s funded, but engineering needs to be done, especially with wetlands issues.
Other Lake County sections along Highway 61, the tunnels and Two Harbors connectors, aren’t scheduled to begin until past 2011.
Trail completion depends much on the reconstruction plans for Hwy. 61, the impetus for the association’s origins in 1997. The trail is funded by state and federal funds with association dues expected to pay for administration and promotion costs. In 2008, the trail received $1.6 million in state bonding money.
For more on the trail, visit ggta.org.