Bike riders from up and down the North Shore and even across Minnesota will come together Aug. 20 for the 16th annual North Shore Bike Ride on the Gitchi-Gami State Trail.
Bill Blank, president of the Gitchi-Gami Trail Association, said he expects around 150 riders to join the ride that starts and ends at Gooseberry Falls State Park, and stretches all the way to Minnesota Highway 1 in Finland.
“You can spend time in the park, it’s right on the water and it’s a beautiful setting and then you start riding, the trail gradually climbs and by the time you get up close to the highway, you’ve gone a mile already, the park is so big,” Blank said. “It’s a very festive time and it’s fun to be around other bikers. The enthusiasm is just infectious, it’s a good group to be around.”
The annual ride is a fundraiser for the GGTA, and money raised will go toward the completion of the trail. Banks said the association hopes to complete a section following West Road in Beaver Bay in 2017, finishing the connection between Beaver Bay and Silver Bay. The Gitchi-Gami Trail Association also is working with the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission and the Minnesota Department of Transportation Regional Transportation Advisory Committee to secure additional grants and funding for the trail.
Registration is $45 for adults and includes a T-shirt, along with a map of all three routes offered to riders and daily admission to Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock Lighthouse and Tettegouche state parks. Children younger than 15 can register for $5 with a paid adult and will receive a water bottle. Registration for members of the GGTA or those who pay for the $30 membership at registration will receive a $10 discount from the regular fee.
The GGTA is an all-volunteer nonprofit group formed to work with state and area organizations to plan, develop and maintain the Gitchi-Gami State Trail. The trail, when complete, will be an 88-mile, non-motorized trail between Two Harbors and Grand Marais. About 30 miles of trail are currently complete, with the longest leg being a 14-mile stretch between Gooseberry Falls and Beaver Bay. A 10-mile section between Schroeder and Lutsen also is complete.
Blank said adding members is particularly important this year because more than $2 million for construction on the Gitchi-Gami State Trail was included in the bonding bill that stalled in the state legislature earlier this summer.
“The more members we have, the more clout we have with legislators,” he said.
Other projects GGTA hopes to complete in the next couple of years are a 3 mile section near Grand Marais and another section near Tofte.
Next weekend, rest stops with snacks and refreshments will be set up at the rest stop on Highway 61 in Beaver Bay and at Eckbeck Campground on Highway 1 in Finland.
There are three suggested distances for the out-and-back ride, including a 28-mile option that begins at Gooseberry Falls and follows the trail from the park through Split Rock Lighthouse State Park to the new rest stop in Beaver Bay on Highway 61. The only spot the 28-mile option will cross an open highway is to reach the rest stop.
In addition to snacks and refreshments at the rest stop in Beaver Bay, the riders will also be greeted with music and other entertainment as part of the first ever Beaver Bay Rhythm and Roots Festival.
“The trail goes through Beaver Bay and there will be some music playing and I think that adds a lot of fun to the afternoon,” Blank said.
Blank said riders not wishing to go the full 28 miles can simply turn around and head back to Gooseberry Falls at any point.
The 37-mile and 55-mile routes that follow County Road 4 inland from Beaver Bay will be on open roads with cars and other traffic. Those riders also will travel on County Road 5, Highway 1, Highway 61 and Outer Drive in Silver Bay.
Blank said there would be signs up to remind drivers to be aware of bikers on the roads and asked that drivers be a little more alert and drive slower in the Finland and Silver Bay areas during the bike ride.
For more information or to register for the race, visit ggta.org. Same-day registration is available.