The Cuyuna Range business community felt the addition of a 25-mile mountain bike system to the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area would only attract 30-year-old adrenalin junkies that would only benefit the hospitals and bars.
That was part of the message brought to the Environment and Natural Resources Committee of the Minnesota Senate last Tuesday by members of the Cuyuna Lakes Chamber of Commerce.
The group wanted to thank for committee for its support and testify to the economic impact of the trail system and the 800-acre recreational area that surrounds it.
The Cuyuna group were at the capitol for the Day on the Hill sponsored by the Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota who played a key role in gaining legislative support for the trail system.
Jenny Smith of Cycle, Path and Paddle outfitters in Crosby said the trail system has increased their bike rental business 300 percent.
“Without the added mountain bike business I would have closed my doors,” said Smith. “The trails have adds to my business and many other businesses in the towns along the Cuyuna.”
Smith said it has been their goal to get more women and young people involved in the trail system.
“We’ve had children as young as two years old riding down the mountain bike trails on their Styder bikes,” added Smith.
Chris Ruttger of Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge near Deerwood said his family resort has been changing with the times since 1898.
“We started with fishing, added golf, business meetings. With the addition of a world class mountain bike trail near by, we’ve become more bicycle friendly nad added beginners mountain bike trail at the resort,” said Ruttger.
Chamber Director Johnna Johnson told the state senators Cuyuna had seen many years of hard times after hard times.
“The investment you have made in our area has made up one of the top places for outdoor fun,” said Johnson. With this gift, we have hope.”
Aaron Hautala of the Cuyuna Mountain Bike Crew said this investment brought 15,000 people to bike in the trails system’s first year.
“Our group plans to take care of this wonderful gift and build on it. We hope to grow to 100,000 users. This winter we got permission from the state to create a 10-mile winter bike trail, which will host the first Cuyuna Whiteout in March.
The Parks & Trails Day on the Hill began with meetings with parks and trails providers, legislators and lobbyists on the proposed $26.5 million fro 17 state authorized trail projects, $5 million to add 1,000 acres of critical lands to 10 Minnesota parks and $27.6 million for ongoing park projects and $35 million for regional and metro park projects.
Parks & Trails Council Director Brett Feldman said the need for these bonding numbers is because of all the bonding requests that have been vetoed in the past.
“Minnesota’s parks and trails like the ones you find at Cuyuna contribute to our health, our economy and our connection with nature. Approximately 40 jobs are created per every $1 million invested in trails,” said Feldman.
He added parks and trails also enhance property values.