Approximately two days before Xmas the Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (Duluth, MN) was awarded a $250,000 grant to start construction on the Duluth Traverse trail. I have written numerous times about the Duluth Traverse on this blog, so instead of revamping old content I am going to link this to a recent article in the Minneapolis Star and Tribune instead and focus on some other thoughts about COGGS and the work that they have done.
I really think that it should be noted just how much work COGGS has done to get to this point. A point which in reality is just the starting line.
COGGS has changed and evolved incredibly in the last five years. This has not been due to any one person but there have been some really solid and consistent folks who should be credited with COGGS current focus and direction. Certainly Adam Sundberg needs a major shout out. Adam stepped up to lead a club that had not made many changes internally or externally for many years. Despite that lack of focus Adam made what many at that time in the club would have considered radical changes to the club, its operations and its focus. Adam brought some like minded people with him and because of that things like Piedmont became reality as well as much of the changes that occurred in the Lester and Hartley trails systems as well. Adam also refocused the clubs energy on many of the races that COGGS has put on as well and because of that they have become solid profit centers. Perhaps Adams biggest legacy though is his positive attitude, his ability to work with just about anybody, his ability to be inviting and to bring all sorts of people into the COGGS fold and get them involved. Because of Adam it is an open and inviting club.
Two and half years ago when I took this job I came to Adam with even more radical ideas for the COGGS club, many of them unproven and unheard of with the Duluth club. I should also say I myself was unproven too! Things like an IMBA Trail Care Crew visit, the IMBA Chapter Program, IMBA Trail Solutions help with Trail design and construction. These were big leaps for a club that had literally just started gaining more access to land in the city. The Duluth Traverse was a kernel of an idea in many peoples heads, mine included but the thought of fund raising for a project of that magnitude was almost so big that many people just turned off, categorized it in the world of fantasy....smiled and nodded and forgot about it. Not Adam and not the board that he was working with. I wish I could name all of you because all of you deserve as much credit as Adam but by listing all of you I would forget somebody and that would not be cool. You do know who you are!
Adam made that leap mentally (as well as his board) and they got behind a TCC visit that was extremely well attended and with the right folks in the room as well. Most notably the Mayor of Duluth, Don Ness who took the information and incorporated it into his future goals for the City of Duluth. Adam also got behind the IMBA Chapter Program and because of that he opened the doors to working closely with Trail Solutions on planning the Duluth Traverse and using them to reach out to other user groups as well. Meanwhile other folks were inspired and we had Andrea Grygo doing all of the COGGS GIS work, work that was so important to sell the DT idea and dream to COGGS members and also outside supporters who were not cyclists at all.
The City of Duluth also implemented not one but two master plans that COGGS had to have people sitting at the table for. Adam himself and Eric Viken sat through seemingly endless meetings making sure the DT vision was not only communicated but included officially in all of those plans. Now not only was it a COGGS dream, it was an official city dream. It should also be noted that the City of Duluth has been COGGS biggest supporter and has been amazing to work with throughout this whole process. Duluth has a visionary leader who gets trails and gets the outdoor lifestyle his town has, Mayor Ness has been a great leader on this project. His Parks and Rec Staff has been extremely supportive as well. Kathy Bergin, Amy Norris and Judy Gibbs, have been awesome to work with. They are working tough jobs, managing multiple user groups and at the same time keeping open minds and getting things done.
Again in parallel efforts Dave Dawkins took a trip with IMBA to the National Bike Summit and met a lot of very interesting and successful club leaders and came away inspired enough to take the lead on some fundraising efforts. Before long a club that had in the past raised 3-$10,00 a year was looking at nearly $50,000 in the bank, and managing that effort fell to the new club treasurer Sheri Nelson to keep track of it all! Not an easy job!
Of course COGGS also had Daryl Peterson step up. A pro at grant writing, Daryl wrote the Legacy Grant. He had the skills and the experience to write a very effective grant for COGGS and really has helped dial in how COGGS should organize, promote and define the DT so that it was an effective project for possible grants and funding. It should also be noted that in working closely with the city COGGS was able to partner closely with a group that was getting out the Yes vote for a Parks and Libraries referendum. Alicia Stockard who has volunteered for COGGS on public relations needs stepped up and put on a silent auction event (as well as a Pedal Driven showing) that raised nearly 60% of the campaigns budget. The Referendum passed and when the new City budget was presented, the Mayor looked at the Trails Master plan saw the DT as a shovel ready, planned, official City trail that had a vibrant and passionate volunteer group (aligned nationally with IMBA) and bequeathed a line item to the trail in the six figure range.
So now it begins. COGGS has many big challenges ahead. It has never spent or managed this kind of money before. It will have to work even closer with the City of Duluth to actually spend it.
$250,000 is a lot of money, but you must also realize that it is not that much in the grand scheme of things. Cuyuna cost nearly $1 million dollars. A new street light on a major street in Duluth is running nearly a million bucks, the new paved trail in Minneapolis heading to the Target Center was $1million for one mile. With that in mind you realize that the full DT system, while a huge return on investment, will be much, much more that $250,000. I would love to put a sticker price on it as a whole, and in some ways we may have to (for grants and planning etc), but I prefer to look at it in phases. One step at a time, one dream section a year, and then once it is done we can look back at its cost and realize the amount but also the benefit to the Duluth Community as well.
If you live in the City of Duluth. You were given a huge present for Xmas, but it did not come from Santa Claus. It came from a lot of extremely hard work from some dedicated and passionate mountain bikers and some great city employees. If you live in the City of Duluth and you want to get involved to better your community, then join COGGS, go to a meeting, help build trail and just join in.
You wont regret it.