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Conservation Corps member Gary Hill, of Bemidji, and crew members chop at roots along the North Country Trail in Becker County. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

Work begins on area trails

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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Crews have begun cleaning and developing sections of the North Country National Scenic Trail in the area.

Legacy funding has allowed the Laurentian Lakes volunteer organization for Becker and Clearwater counties to hire crews from the Conservation Corps of Minnesota/Iowa.

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Jake Lehner, a Conservation Corps field specialist out of Brainerd, said the weather was good for working Monday afternoon.

"It's a perfect day to be out here," he said. "No mosquitoes. Well, not many."

A crew started work west of Ponsford last week on a stretch of trail that wasn't developed. They are digging up roots and rocks to make the trail surface smooth and defined.

"We're hoping to have a crew here most of the summer," said Ray Vlasek, Laurentian Lakes chapter president. "We got a nice, early start this year."

He explained that the North Country National Scenic Trail is one of 11 National Scenic Trails in the country and the only one in Minnesota.

It connects seven states between New York and North Dakota. In Minnesota, the North Country Trail was completed through the Chippewa National Forest in the late 80s and through Itasca State Park in the mid-90s. Construction of the trail between the Chippewa National Forest and Itasca State Park was completed in November of 2009.

In grooming the trail, the first step is to rake it then dig up the first layer of organic material. Roots and rocks are removed and the area is leveled.

"Our chapter has between 65 and 70 miles of trail and a little over half of it is done," Vlasek said.

With Legacy funding this year, Vlasek hopes another 20 miles or so will be completed.

The entire area, including Hubbard County, has 135 continuous miles of trail and should have 155 miles by the end of the season, Vlasek said.

A single crew of six to eight people can complete a half mile to mile of trail in a week.

"It's rugged, natural forest through here and fairly slow going," Vlasek said.

The area west of Ponsford is county tax forfeited land that is managed for timber, he said.

For areas of the trail that aren't completed, a road route is defined. The trail will go through Frazee to the south.

There are summer parking lots at the following trailhead locations:

n Chippewa National Forest Picnic Area south of the Highway 371/200 junction

n Shingobee Recreation Area southwest of Walker on Highway 34.

n Cass County Highway 12 approximately 5 miles southwest of Walker .

n Highway 64 and East Steamboat Forest Road, approximately 4 miles north of Akeley.

n Nelson Lake Campground in the Paul Bunyan State Forest west of Highway 64, access off of Hwy 64 on the Gulch Lake Roads just south of the Forest Edge Winery.

n Hubbard County Highway 4 and Halverson Forest Rd, approximately 3 miles south of the town of Lake George.

n The south entrance of Itasca State Park, off of Highway 71.

n Itasca State Park, .5 miles north of Highway 113 on 540th Avenue.

n Anchor Matson Forest Road, west of Itasca State Park, 2.8 miles north of Highway 113.

n Clearwater County Highway 39, west of Itasca State Park, 1.5 miles north of Highway 113.

n Highway 113, northwest of Bad Medicine Lake, .8 miles west of Becker County 37.

n Elbow Lake Road, northwest of Ponsford Prairie, 1.4 miles west of Becker County 37.

There is a kiosk or signboard with information about the trail at most locations. Posted on the kiosks are hiking distances to the nearest kiosk or a number of roads not listed above that cross the trail where road parking is available.

Go to www.northcountrytrail.org/llc or www.northcountrytrail.org/itm for additional information about the trail and volunteer organizations in the area.

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