It might be the second most-asked question in these parts these days, behind “When will the ice be gone from the lake?”
And like that question, there is no certain answer as to when the mountain bike trails in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area (CCSRA) will open.
But this much is known: The trails are closed to users and will remain off limits until the necessary work can be done to open the trails for a much-anticipated second season.
According to Aaron Hautala of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew (CLMBC), which helps maintain the trail system, there is evidence of some bike and foot traffic on the trails already. With temperatures in the 70s — prime biking weather — Hautala can understand that mountain bikers are anxious to hit the world-class trails. But the CLMBC and DNR stress patience as they work to get the trails in shape.
“Every muddy tire track and footprint will need to be repaired prior to the system officially opening this spring,” said Nick Statz, director of trail maintenance for the CLMBC. “The less repair work we need to do, the sooner we’ll be able to open the trails, providing the best mountain biking experience possible when the time is right.”
The DNR has closed signs posted at every entry point to the summer trail system in the Mahnomen, Portsmouth and Yawkey units of the CCSRA. The trails will remain closed until conditions improve or spring maintenance has been completed. The winter trails in the Sagamore Unit of the CCSRA remain open, but riding or walking on Sagamore Mine Lake is not advised.
“We’re only asking people to use common sense,” Hautala said of use of trails in the Sagamore Unit. “If you’re making big ruts, stay off.”
Statz got the crew’s first look at the summer trails only days ago.
“Nick was out all day yesterday (Thursday). It was the first assessment we were able to do. It was our first look at the whole system,” Hautala said. “The downside of the assessment is there are already footprints and tread marks out there.”
But Hautala said the trails are well ahead of where they were last year at this time.
“Nick is feeling good about it,” Hautala said. “About the only thing (Statz said of the condition of the trail system) is that it’s in better shape than last year. There is work to do. We have to get resources and volunteers out there. But it’s not like, ‘Oh my God, a whole hill fell on it,’ which is what happened last year and it took weeks to fix.”
Hautala estimated it will take the efforts of about 50 volunteers to ensure that the trail system is where the CLMBC and DNR want it. He urges anyone who wants join the CLMBC and help the cause to attend the CLMBC’s monthly meeting at 7 p.m. April 5 at the Hallett Community Center in Crosby.
“We won’t have anything to share until that meeting,” Hautala said of the status of the trails. “That’s the first time we’ll be able to say something. It will be a big meeting, a springboard to the season.”
In the trail system’s inaugural year in 2011, it partially opened in late May, opening completely in June with the successful Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival. If the weather cooperates, the hope is that the trails will open well before that this year.
“So many people are looking to us for trails,” said Steve Weber, DNR manager at the CCSRA. “There’s going to be a lot expected of us and we’re going to deliver.”
For up-to-date trail conditions, go to www.facebook.com/cuyuna lakesmtb.