DULUTH — A 40-mile long mountain bike trail through Duluth is nearing completion.
The Duluth Traverse, which will connect one end of Duluth to the other, and almost all of the mountain bike trail systems in between, is about 90 percent complete, according to Waylon Munch, who just finished his term as chairperson of Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS).
“At this point, it’s really just playing connect-the-dots,” Munch said. “We’ve built a majority of the trail system now and we’re just finding these remaining gaps.”
Most of the those 40 miles allow for use by walkers and cyclists. When complete, the trail will connect a total of 105 miles of mountain bike trail.
The project, a joint effort between COGGS and the City of Duluth, features a single-track trail easy enough for novice mountain bikers, but it’s open to walkers, too.
Jim Shoberg, a senior parks planner and landscape supervisor with the city, said trail construction crews are moving faster than last year.
“(2017) was so wet we didn’t make much progress,” Shoberg said.
But this year is different.
A five-member crew started the 2018 construction season by connecting Chester Park to an existing section of the Traverse at the top of Partridge Street. Then they finished a section in Hartley Park near Rock Knob.
Now, the crew is working on a nearly mile-long section through the antenna farm, linking Observation Hill to the Central High School property.
Next year, it’s back to connecting more dots — Chester Park to Hartley Park via Bagley Nature Area and the Duluth Zoo to Green Street.
The DWP between Spirit Mountain and Mission Creek will remain a double-track trail to accommodate more users, like horses, but the trail’s bridges need repairs before it can be considered fully open.
There won’t be much left to connect after that.
“Next year, we’ll be very close to being complete with the spine,” Shoberg said, adding that they still plan to finish in 2020.
Once the Traverse is complete, the city and COGGS will focus on adding branches, or neighborhood connectors, stemming out from the Traverse.
“As we finish out the trail, we’re identifying where we can add a little bit better connectivity to the neighborhood,” Munch said.
Those will be a mix of streets and single-track trails, Shoberg said. The Duluth Traverse Mini-Master Plan — the city’s 2017 blueprint for the trail — lists Jay Cooke State Park, Esko, Proctor and Hermantown as possible connectors.
Once the Traverse is complete, crews will turn their attention to maintenance of existing trails.
“There’s always going to be things like a reroute or a rebuild, just like you do with roads,” Shoberg said.
Duluth’s network of mountain bike trails — almost all connected by the Traverse’s “spine” design — have come a long way in just a decade.
In 2008, the Piedmont trail system was just opening and the only other single-track mountain bike trails were in Hartley or Spirit Mountain.
Now, Duluth is a mountain bike destination.
“We’re over the hump,” Munch said.