Volunteers set to work on North Country Trail

MARQUETTE – With spring around the corner, members of the Superior Shoreline chapter of the North Country Trail Association are anxiously waiting for the snow to melt in order to get on the trails and get the ball rolling on some much-anticipated projects.

While some updates were elective, Tim Hass, president of the Superior Shoreline Chapter of NCTA said The Duck Lake Fire, which burned more than 21,000 acres in Luce County, prompted some necessary changes.

When asked how much of an impact the fire had on the trails, Hass said they are still witnessing the affects of the natural disaster that occured in May of last year.

“I closed the trail in June and it’s still closed officially until we get all the work done. We couldn’t risk people going on that section of trail because of falling trees and limbs… even in October, the ash was still so bad that it totally coated your clothing.”

The fire closed three miles of trail, starting at the mouth of the Two-Hearted River and onward west.

Trail members have plans in place to put in a new trail, backing the segment up about 40 feet, as Hass felt the original trail was too close to the edge of the dunes.

He noted that another update happening involves the people who adopt sections of the trail. After an inquiry from a church group in Minnesota on the best places to camp along the trails, Hass said they have begun asking those who have adopted a trail segment, who are required to clean their trail section at least once a year, to mark GPS coordinates of any locations they feel would be good places to camp.

Trails markers and signs will also get a makeover this year, after the Forest Service approached Hass about taking inventory of all signage. According to Hass, some signs are almost 25 years old and a few have incorrect information posted on them. The signs were prepared over the fall, painted this winter and will be replaced in the spring.

Perhaps the most exciting update however, is the soon-to-be addition of a half-mile handicap accessible trail section.

Hass recalled the idea forming in his head last fall, while reading a portion of the forestry manual that talks about trails. He began reading more and watching videos about accessible trails. The trail segment will be named after Hass’s brother, Donald, who passed away years ago from muscular dystrophy. Donald, who was wheelchair bound from the age of 9, loved the outdoors.

Hass said as soon as the snow is off the ground, they will be able to start the work, which will include leveling the area, widening the trail and dumping a load of dirt at one end to create a more gradual incline. They will also add a parking area on either end of the trail. Hass expects the project to be completed within two to three days.

“If one person with a handicap can go down that trail where they couldn’t before, then it’s a success,” Hass said.

He hopes it will raise awareness to other chapters to make trails inclusionary.

“Everyone should be able to get on the trails,” Hass said.

Another trail member from Grand Marais will be revisiting sections of trail as well, to see if she can find any other segments that they could readily make accessible for the handicapped.

To learn more about NCTA, visit www.northcountrytrail.org.

Abbey Hauswirth can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 240.