There's Gold In Them Thar Hills!
Crosby Gold. That’s the name locals have given to the good dirt in the Cuyuna Lakes area that was harvested and transplanted to various areas to build trails in the sandier sections of the park. The site is a bit of a hodge-podge of terrain and soils types as a result of its former life as an iron mine. Material was dug, moved, and re-deposited in order to extract the valuable iron ore, resulting in pits and piles that are now lakes and hills. Some areas are full of layers and layers of shale; others are silty and sandy. Most of it is a deep red-orange color that gives all visitors a red badge on their tires and clothes that says “I had a blast at Cuyuna.”
Cuyuna represents a gold rush of another kind. The new mountain bike trails have drawn visitors from local nearby towns as well as riders from hours away. As a result, local businesses have seen a boost in their sales. Those who were once skeptical about the development of the trails are now believers. An older gentleman in Crosby struck up a conversation with us, telling us how great the trails have been for the community. He said every weekend he sees several cars in town with bike racks full of mountain bikes.
But what if you have a gold mine with nobody to work it? The Cuyuna trails have a small group of dedicated volunteers from the Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists (MORC) who put hours and hours into maintaining them. The high volume of use and sections of sandy terrain take their toll, and every trail system needs ongoing care and maintenance to keep it in tip-top shape for its users. The old saying goes, “if you build it, they will come,” but will they come help?
While the community’s support for the trails is growing, more volunteers are needed to pitch in on maintaining them. The challenge the local MORC club faces is to really engage the community, harness offers of support in meaningful ways, involve volunteers with diverse skill sets, and tap into available resources to keep things moving forward. Hopefully our visit, which included a Club Care presentation and an all-day trail building and maintenance school, will give the group the boost and tools they need to rev up their already-great progress.
Our hats are off in a big way to the many people who dedicated much time (years) and effort to make these great trails a reality and to those who continue to be stewards who take care of this great new community asset. We look forward to seeing continued growth of the trail system and the communities that support it!
Extra special thanks to: MORC trail boss, Nick Statz, for showing us around and for his tireless work leading the charge on the trail work; Park Ranger Steve Weber from the DNR for his support, forward thinking, and great partnership with MORC; and Dan Brown from the Country Inn in Deerwood for his generous sponsorship of our visit.