by Mike O'Rourke
Terry McGaughey, the Brainerd man whose name is synonymous with the Paul Bunyan Trail, will be honored with a lifetime achievement award Tuesday from the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota.
As winner of the Reul Harmon Award he joins a list of past winners who include Gov. Elmer L. Andersen (1997), Rep. Willard Munger (1998), former U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger (2008).
The volunteer coordinator of the Paul Bunyan Trail Association was honored for more than 25 years of supporting, lobbying and promoting the 110-mile Paul Bunyan Trail. He’ll receive the award Tuesday at the organization’s 56th annual dinner at the Town and Country Club in St. Paul.
Brett Feldman, acting executive director for the Parks and Trails of Minnesota, said the award was a crowning achievement for a person who has worked for an important trail for a quarter of a century.
“There aren’t too many people who stick to anything for five years,” Feldman said. “He’s a super humble guy, but I think this award ... I think this one really, really touched him.”
Feldman said the Paul Bunyan Trail encountered legal challenges along the way and successfully set a precedent for the disposition of abandoned railroad lines.
McGaughey said he was humbled by the award.
“There are a lot of people who really deserve it,” he said.
He acknowledged the Paul Bunyan Trail became a blueprint for legislative and citizen action for turning abandoned railroad lines into trails.
“That was the springboard to the growth, the phenomenon of railroad conversion,” he said.
The primary reason for establishing trails is the recreational opportunities but McGaughey said businesses have designed business plans based on the economic benefits of the trail. McGaughey said trail plans have been drawn and all the land has been acquired to expand the trail from Baxter to Crow Wing State Park. He said work on that could start in 2011.
McGaughey’s first involvement with the Paul Bunyan Trail dates back to 1983. In 1988 the Minnesota Legislature authorized establishment of the trail. The first 50 miles of the trail were opened in 1992. According to the Parks and Trails Council, when all the segments are completed the Paul Bunyan Trail and the Blue Ox Trail will be connected to form a 210-mile trail - one of the longest rail-to-trail conversions in the United States.
McGaughey also helped establish the Minnesota Designated Canoe and Boating Routes, helped form the Minnesota Canoe Association, co-founded an Audubon chapter and was a member of the original governing board of the Deep Portage Conservation Reserve in Cass County.
In 2008 he received the council’s Government/Citizen Action Award.
“This is more of a surprise to me than the one they gave me two years ago,” McGaughey said.