Border-spanning trail in the works for northern Minn.

Published 7:30 am Thursday, August 3, 2017

By Dan Gunderson

MPR News/90.1 FM

If you like bumpy, dusty, winding roads, you’ll love the new border-to-border trail in the works across northern Minnesota.

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The adventure touring trail could be open late next summer, linking little used back roads and forest trails to take motorists on an off-the-beaten-path trek across the state.

However, some local officials are less than enthusiastic, worried about increased road repair costs and law enforcement needs created by more traffic.

The trail will start at Grand Portage at the tip of the Arrowhead region and end at the North Dakota border somewhere in far northwest Minnesota. Along the way, it will pass through deep forests, past lakes and rivers and across prairie and farmland. A canopy of trees overhead shade the road as Ron Potter turns onto a narrow cut through the forest northwest of Bemidji. This road was built for logging, perhaps decades ago and it’s bumpy with occasional muddy spots.

“Definitely looks like it’s minimum maintenance. They maintain it when they need to for timber harvest reasons,” said Potter, as his four-wheel-drive Jeep jounced over ruts and squished through muddy spots.

Potter is a retired Department of Natural Resources trails employee who’s now a consultant for the National Off Highway Vehicle Conservation Council. The DNR contracted with the off-highway vehicle council and the Minnesota Four Wheel Drive Association to manage the project.

In 2015, the Legislature authorized using registration feeds and gas tax from off road vehicles for trail development.

Potter was “ground truthing” one recent day, which entails driving roads that look like a potential trail segment on a map.

He turns onto a trail that’s just two wheel tracks with tall grass between, a road that hasn’t seen tires in some time. But that’s just what Potter is looking for.

“This would be ideal. It would be nice if we could have the entire adventure trail something like this,” said Potter.