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On July 25, four days after hurricane-force winds swept through Duluth, I visited Hartley Park to check on the trails. I expected devastation, and I found it. The wind had ripped the tops from trees, torn up trees by the roots, and snapped trees in half. I spent most of my time exploring the Root Canal mountain bike trail. I originally intended to do the whole loop, but after spending half an hour thrashing through fallen trees, I realized I wouldn’t be able to do anywhere near that.
When mountain bike trails are built, the builders like to corner around large trees as a trail feature. Many of those corners have been destroyed by trees uprooting. The biggest windfall I saw was an old-growth white pine, nearly four feet in diameter. The root plate towered over my head, leaving a raw crater in the earth four feet deep. Occasionally I came across a section of pristine, tree-free trail, which I followed through the apocalypse as if out for a Sunday stroll.
The mountain bike trails in town are largely maintained by volunteers, but I don’t think volunteers will be able to clean up this mess. The job is too big and too dangerous. Trees are hung up in trees hung up in trees. Too much can go wrong. It’s a job for licensed professionals.
If the trails at Lester Park and Hawks Ridge are as bad as the trails at Hartley, well over twenty miles of mountain bike trail need to be cleared. That takes money—and that’s just mountain bike trails. Hartley and Lester also have hiking trails, Nordic ski trails and regular walking trails. It will be very interesting to see how we manage the clean-up.