HUDSON – Willow River and Kinnickinnic State Parks will offer new mountain biking trails, thanks to the continued efforts of community volunteers.
A total of 25 miles will be installed at Willow River State Park and 15 miles at Kinnickinnic State Park.
The first portions of the trails will be built this year, starting with six miles in each park. Six additional miles will be added each year to reach the final total.
The Friends of the Willow River and Kinnickinnic State Parks have been interested in mountain biking trails for years, but they were banned in state park management plans. The group was looking at the gaps when the Natural Resources Department changed its philosophy, Treasurer Dave Thofern said.
Then a study from 2012, 2013 showed that one of the fastest growing areas of interest was mountain biking, said Ben Swenka, president of the Willow-Kinni Mountain Bike Club.
The Friends got together with the newly formed Willow-Kinni Mountain Bike Club to start work on a mountain bike trail plan.
“The question was how much land is available? What can we do in these parks for the trail? Said Swenka.
The groups worked closely with the park management to demarcate areas for building trails. They found sufficient area for the planned 25 miles at Willow River and 15 miles at Kinnickinnic.
The first pieces of trail were already built in Kinnickinnic, to be used for snowshoeing, hiking and skiing before mountain biking was allowed.
Work is underway at Willow River and Kinnickinnic to complete the first phase.
All the construction of the trail is completed by volunteers. Typically, building a trail would cost between $ 20,000 and $ 40,000 with a hired crew, Swenka said.
Funding comes from a combination of donations, fundraising and grants.
The mountain bike trails will feature a mix of difficulty levels, including beginner green trails, blue intermediate trails, and black expert trails. About half of the trails will be intermediate, the rest of the trails being divided between beginner and expert level.
Beginner trails will be designed closer to the entrance, so those new to the loop can make a shorter loop and intermediates or experts can go further, Swenka said.
“The idea is that you can kind of bite as much as you want,” he said.
The ATV trails will be new trails, separate from the existing hiking trails.
“They’re going to be in areas of the park that have been underused,” Thofern said.
When mountain biking first appeared, the Friends wanted to be involved to address possible people’s concerns and have a say in any conflict issues between users, Thofern said. He quickly learned that today’s mountain biking trails are different from what he envisioned.
The trails are durable with erosion, maintenance and running costs minimized, Thofern said.
State parks have seen an increase in traffic over the past year.
“The need for the park’s resources has increased dramatically in a short period of time,” said Swenka.
The trails will provide more recreational opportunities in the area and use underutilized resources.
“It couldn’t be a better use of the areas as we have a huge demand, we have unused land and we have a great partnership with the Friends group and this new group of mountain bike trails,” said Swenka. “We have the momentum to build the tracks so I think everything is happening at the right time.”
Additional leisure activities will be available to local residents, as well as the community at large, bringing people from the Twin Cities and the Midwest, Thofern said.