Two school districts on the Iron Range plan to start mountain biking teams in part of what's been a decadelong explosion in the sport in Minnesota since the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails opened in 2010.
Mountain bike teams in the Minnesota High School Cycling League are being formed at Rock Ridge and Hibbing school districts, with the Rock Ridge team in Virginia being a composite team that draws from schools on the east side of the Iron Range.
Mountain biking has exploded in popularity in Minnesota since the trail system in Crosby was built. In 2012, the first year of the cycling league for high school and middle schoolers, there were 151 participants from 16 teams. This past year, despite COVID-19 restrictions, there were 2,135 participants from 80 teams spanning 125 schools.
The trail system at an abandoned mining site around Crosby has found incredible success, with some 40,000 visitors annually biking the Cuyuna Lakes trails. In 2018, the state Department of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation invested $5 million to build more trails in the Iron Range: Tioga Recreation Area trail near Grand Rapids, Redhead Mountain Bike Park near Chisholm, and adding to the trails at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.
"There's no bench warmers, no tryouts," said Josh Kleve, executive director of the league. "Every day, you get a social setting and get to go ride bikes with your friends."
THIEF RIVER FALLS
Broadband grants total $1.6 million
Thief River Falls and the region received $1.6 million to improve broadband service as part of a state-local partnership to improve broadband access for about 125 locations in northwest Thief River Falls, Euclid and parts of Marshall and Polk counties.
With the grant, Garden Valley Technologies will improve broadband service levels up to one gigabit per second download and upload speed, which exceeds the 2022 and 2026 state speed goals for homes, businesses and community facilities.
"At 1.3 locations per square mile, it's tough to build that out and, without grant programs like this, it would be nearly impossible," said Tim Brinkman, CEO and general manager of Garden Valley Technologies.
The grant was one of 39 Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grants announced by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
The state grants total nearly $21 million and will be matched with nearly $34 million in local funds.