DULUTH - State money headed toward two popular Duluth recreational areas is expected to increase access to bike, ski and snowmobile trails.
The Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission recommends that Spirit Mountain receive a $1.25 million grant and the Duluth Traverse mountain bike trail system nearly $168,000. The recommendation, connected to the state's Parks and Trails Legacy Fund created by the 2008 Minnesota Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, goes to the state Legislature for expected approval.
The Duluth Traverse money will pay for a fleet of mountain bikes and a trailer to transport them to youth centers and other organizations in Duluth, such as the Valley Youth Centerin west Duluth.
"Mountain biking as a sport is fairly difficult to get into if you are facing income and transportation barriers," said Jessica Peterson, parks and recreation manager for the city of Duluth.
It's also a sport with typically white and higher-income ridership.
"We are really seeking to diversify outdoor recreation broadly in Duluth," Peterson said, and the grant will help connect more kids to trails in their neighborhoods.
Money is meant for 53 bikes — that will vary in ability level — and also transportation to trails and programming. Kids would be taught how to ride them and could eventually become instructors. The fleet would likely be ready for spring 2023.
The commission looks for projects that connect people to the outdoors, and both chosen in Duluth fit that criteria, said Renee Mattson, its executive director.
"If we have great parks and trails and people aren't using them, it's pointless," she said about the usefulness of the mountain bike fleet. "It's a great way to get kids involved in an activity."
Spirit Mountain's share is slated for expansion of its Nordic, snowmobile and mountain bike trail system, completing the third loop planned for its Grand Avenue Nordic Center trails and building a connector trail from those to its upper trails. It would also pay for a new snowmaking pump, new blue and black downhill mountain bike trails, new cross-country terrain through the Duluth Traverse and other improvements to link the ski chalets to snowmobile trails.
Twenty of 21 applicants throughout greater Minnesota are set to receive a portion of $12.2 million in grant money, including Sherburne County's Big Elk Lake Park and Winona's Bluffs Traverse. Parks and trails outside the seven-county metro area designated as regionally significant are eligible.