WALKER -- Citing prohibitive costs, Paul Bunyan Trail Association director Terry McGaughey opposes Gov. Tim Pawlenty's proposal to complete the trail from Walker to Bemidji with limestone rather than asphalt surfacing. It is currently unpaved.
Snowmobilers use the paved portion of the Paul Bunyan Trail in the winter, and bikers, hikers and inline skaters use it the rest of the year. Snowmobilers tend to prefer limestone surfacing.
McGaughey said limestone surfacing, which accommodates snowmobilers and bicycle riders but not inline skaters, was tried when railroad lines first were converted to recreational trails in Minnesota. Spring rutting resulted in high maintenance costs, so the state turned to asphalt as a cost effective, long-term surfacing, he said.
Possible use of limestone arose again two years ago when a trail by Cass Lake was paved. Limestone was considered first, McGaughey said, but because Minnesota has very little native limestone, the only potential bidder was an Indiana contractor.
When the contractor investigated possible costs involved in shipping the limestone by boat over the Great Lakes, then trucking it from Duluth to Cass Lake, the transportation cost became prohibitive, McGaughey said. That trail was paved with asphalt.
People opposed to asphalt paving have argued that snowmobilers spend more money while here as tourists than bicycle riders or those enjoying other non-motorized uses.
But DNR surveys have shown snowmobilers actually are the third highest spenders while visiting here, McGaughey said. They also tend to come from Minnesota, while bicycling draws tourists from other states, he said.
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