Cuyuna Lakes Trail Association
By Linda Picone
It’s an exciting time to be part of the Cuyuna Lakes Trail Association—and to use the Cuyuna Lakes State Trail in central Minnesota, near Crosby.
Jennifer Smith, president of the Cuyuna Lakes Trail Association, pretty much bubbles with enthusiasm when she talks about what’s going on and how the trail has been developed in a relatively short time period.
“We have lots of big stuff happening,” she says. Th e trail, which runs through the 5,000-acre Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, will have about 30 miles of multi-use surface when it’s finished and will connect to the Paul Bunyan State Trail in Brainerd/Baxter on the west and Aitkin and the Mississippi River on the east. This summer, two more sections of the trail will be added:
From Iverson Road at the west end of the current paved portion to Rowe Road in Riverton. At some point, Smith says, the DNR plans a parking area there with access to the trail.
On the east, in Crosby, from Croft Mine Historical Park, along 8th Street NE, past the Halleck Community Center and
the Cuyuna Range School to Heartwood Senior Housing. “That will be a nice connection,” Smith says.
The Cuyuna Lakes Trail Association was formed in 1998, by people who had taken part in a Blandin Leadership program for the Cuyuna Range area. The association was incorporated as a nonprofit in 2001 and, in 2002, the trail was authorized by the Minnesota Legislature.
The Cuyuna Lakes Trail Association supports the development of the trail in two ways, by raising money and by advocacy and education. “We’re continuing to raise funds,” says Smith. “Part of the bonding request is to extend the trail from Crosby to Deerwood and we’ll be doing some fundraisers and some grantwriting to try to get funding for that.”
Education and advocacy includes working with other organizations to promote trail development—and to encourage recreational activities in the area that enhance the trail. “Once people are up here, there are so many other things to do,” says Smith.
Some of the board members of the Cuyuna Lakes Trail Association are also involved with the Cuyuna Range Vision Partnership, including Smith. “We are looking at long-range strategic planning for the Cuyuna Range and how best to situate ourselves for recreational tourism,” she says.
By sometime this summer, the International Mountain Bicycling Association will be opening up a mountain biking center trail in the Cuyuna Lakes State Recreation Area, with 20 miles of intermediate track to be completed this fall and an eventual stretch of 40 to 60 miles. The Vision Partnership is involved in promoting that trail, and Smith says it is likely to bring more people to the Cuyuna Lakes State Trail as well.
The Parks & Trails Council has been anessential partner in the development of thetrail, Smith says. “Th ey’ve just been real supporters of the trail,” she says. “They have purchased parcels of land that were significant for the trail, to hold until the DNR has been able to purchase them.”