Duluth Traverse: Local cyclists aim to make Duluth a mountain bike hotspot

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The scenery of Duluth is similar to riding a bike; once it’s in your head, you never forget it. The Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores or COGGS in coalition with the Duluth City Parks Department is hoping to combine those two things with the creation of the Duluth Traverse.

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“The trails on the Traverse have vistas that will make you drop to your knees and weep,” said Duluth Traverse Planning Committee member Jim Shoberg during a presentation to small group of UMD students on Tuesday, Dec. 2.

The Duluth Traverse Trail System will span the entire 26 miles of the city of Duluth. COGGS plans to use the Traverse as a connector trail to the already existing bike trails throughout the city: Lester Park, Hartley Nature Center, Spirit Mountain, Piedmont-Brewer Park and Mission Creek.

According to the COGGS website, upon completion expected in 2017, the Duluth Traverse Trail System will be the first 100-mile single-track trail within an urban environment.

“The trail creates a destination quality ride center in Duluth,”  Shoberg said. There was already chatter about the Traverse at the World Bike Summit in 2012, in Sante Fe, N.M.

COGGS has reported that around 60 miles of the trail has been constructed, leaving roughly 40 miles to go to completion.

The Traverse has an estimated cost between $40,000 and $60,000 per mile of trail, with its funding coming from a mixture of federal and state grants, as well as donations from sponsors such as Skihut, and Continental Ski & Bike, and Loll Designs.

“We cannot under emphasize the importance of their contribution to the Traverse Trail System,” said Shoberg in regard to the local sponsors and donors.

With the relatively high cost of the trail comes the importance of maintaining the system of trails. Last summer, almost $11,000 in damage was done to the Lester Park Trails because the trails were used in wet conditions. Education is key to COGGS cause.

“We have not been getting the message out,” Shoberg said, adding that it will take a community-wide effort to educate the biker community on trail etiquette to ensure the longevity of the Traverse Trail System.

An entire list of trail etiquette rules can be found on the International Mountain Biking Association’s website. These rules are intended to create an enjoyable experience for all bikers while keeping the trails intact.

The Traverse, like the current trails, will be maintained completely by the users and members of COGGS.

COGGS members currently spend roughly 2,000 hours per year working on the trails, all of which are completely volunteer based. Shoberg compared the amount of work on the trails to a sports complex.

“You can’t just build a ballpark and walk away. Same is true for the bike trails,” Shoberg said, “We don’t do it because we have to, we do it because we love it.”

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