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By: Robert Janis

Superior National Forest

Stimulus Money Helping To Improve Off-Road Trails

By now we are all familiar with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) commonly known as the stimulus program. It has allocated $787.2 billion which is to be spent on infrastructure and other projects to help create jobs. You may not know that a portion of that money will be spent on maintaining, developing, and improving trail systems around the country.

Several federal agencies who have authority over off-road trails have received funds through ARRA for projects. For example, the Bureau of Land Management has been given $320 million, Fish and Wildlife has been allotted $280 million, the National Park Service has been granted $750 million, and the Forest Service has received $1 billion.

The Forest Service is involved in a number of projects that are employing thousands of people to do work to maintain and enhance recreational infrastructure including trails. One such project is taking place at the Superior National Forest in northeast Minnesota. It has received $557,000 to improve the extensive trail system on the Forest.

Kristina Reichenbach, public affairs officer for the Superior National Forest, said that the project will specifically accomplish such things as brushing, tread work, installation of water control structures, boardwalk reconstruction, and trail sign maintenance. All sorts of trails throughout the Superior Forest will get a piece of the action including ATV, hiking, portage, cross-country, skiing, snowmobiling, and interpretive trails. The projects started in June.

The Minnesota Conservation Corps (MCC) is providing 41 young adult volunteers to the projects. According to Reichenbach, the Superior National Forest has had a decade or longer relationship with the MCC.  Over the years, the group has been involved in fish habitat improvements, fish and wildlife surveys, and campground and trail improvements.

Seven MCC crews have been working on this project since June and are expected to work throughout the year. Reichenbach said that by the end of July the crews will have contributed 1,898 hours and have cleared brush from about 100 miles of trail, built about 1,491 feet of trail tread, installed 20 water bars, and removed more than 381 trees that fell on trails during an ice storm last spring.

Reichenbach explained that the trails and roadways of the Superior Forest follow long used foot paths, old logging roads, and railroad beds. The Civilian Conservation Corps did the first major trail construction during the 1930s. “It is a bit of a ‘flashback’ today to be hosting the MCC crews,” she said.

Trail work accomplished through the ARRA funding will supplement ongoing trails management on the Superior National Forest which offers a variety of recreational opportunities.  There are 1,573 miles of roads and trails currently available for ATV use including the Big Aspen Trail on the Laurentian Ranger District and the Stony Spur ATV trail on Kawishiwi Ranger District which both provide seasonal opportunities for ATV riding.

You can find out more about ATV recreation at the Superior National Forest by visiting its website page: You can go to the site and download maps of roads and trails currently available for ATV use on each district on the Forest.  The site also provides visual examples of the signage you will come across on the trails as well as information about the Superior National Forest, passes and permits, projects, plans, and publications.

Included is a PDF of a 45-page report on future actions to be taken to improve the trails in the forest.   According to the report, future projects include designating or decommissioning unclassified roads and providing loop routes and connections for longer distance riding on existing roads and trails. Implementation of this project has been on hold pending completion of supplemental analysis to respond to an appeal of the Forest Service decision.  It is expected that the new plan will be implemented in 2010, concluded Reichenbach.   Look for the publication of a new Motor Vehicle Use Map that will show the various types of motor vehicles that are permitted on roads and trails in the Superior National Forest System.  For details, see the “Projects and Plans” section of the superior National Forest website and select “Travel Management Project.”

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