CHISHOLM – Provided it passes a final inspection by the Chisholm City Council, Phase 1 of the Redhead Mountain Bike Trail will be allowed to open on June 12.
The first section of the Redhead trail is approximately 15 miles long, and was completed last fall near Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm. MDC will serve as the trailhead.
The Chisholm City Council on Wednesday approved an amendment to a joint powers agreement between the city and Iron Range Resources that allows for the city to take over Phase 1 in June. The motion by the council reserves the right for the city to close the trail immediately, should the council deem the trail is not ready for use by the June 12 target date. The council also approved an operations, maintenance and risk management plan for the bike trail. Both decisions were made in a 5 to 1 vote, with Councilor Jim Varda, a staunch proponent of the trail project, voting in opposition.
“At least all the gears are in motion to get this open by June 12,” Chisholm Mayor John Champa said on Wednesday during a virtual city council meeting.
Ensuring that there’s adequate signage in place along Phase 1, and that the trail is safe for opening were two concerns vital to the June 12 opening date, according to Champa.
Councilors appeared to agree with Champa’s assessment.
Members of the Iron Range Off Road Cyclists (IROC) group and representatives from Iron Range Resources and Minnesota Discovery Center, joined in the council meeting on Wednesday, providing feedback and answering questions.
In an earlier meeting held online, representatives from the city spoke to some of them to address concerns raised by city councilors last month when the amendment to the joint powers agreement was first introduced. The council did not take action at that time.
Bob Brown, Chisholm Emergency Director and Fire Chief and Roland Shoen, manager for the Chisholm Ambulance Service also participated in the meeting on Wednesday. The two voiced support for signage and an app that would help emergency responders identify what portion of the trail a rider is on, should they need assistance. They said it’s also important for emergency personnel to know where the access points are along the trail.
At one point in the meeting, Benji Neff, president of the Iron Range Off Road Cycle Group addressed safety concerns aired by Varda. Neff said oftentimes cyclists ride mountain bike trails in groups or pairs, so there’s likely someone to offer help.
Speaking from his 12 years of riding experience, Neff said more serious injuries tend to be less common than people sometimes envision.
“A lot of times, it’s scraped elbows, cuts and abrasions,” said Neff.
IROC members on Wednesday said they plan to take an active role in the trail, including doing regular checks of the trail and some routine maintenance. The city would be responsible for any larger maintenance projects, particularly those requiring machinery.
Champa said communication between the IROC group and the city public works department is important once the trail opens.
In advance of the council meeting on Wednesday, the city was sent a memo from Neff, justifying opening Phase 1 of the Redhead trail, while the rest of the trail remains under construction.
In that memo, Neff points out by allowing riders to use the roughly 15 miles of Phase 1, it will help establish the trail’s reputation.
By allowing riders to use the trail, he said, it will help it compact and harden thus preventing loose dirt and larger sections of the trail from eroding and potentially washing out. Neff said Phase 1 will be physically separated from new areas being constructed, addressing a previous safety concern aired by councilors.
“Having users riding the Phase 1 trails will enable the building crews working on Phase 2 to detect and fix problems on Phase 1,” Neff wrote.
Neff also reasoned that it’s safer to open trails in phases, because it allows the city to prepare in several ways, including emergency response.
Lastly, Neff talked about the potential benefit to the city.
“It’s likely that the community will begin to see the economic impact and quality of life benefits upon opening of Phase 1,” he wrote.
Scott Linnenburger is the construction manager of Kay-Linn, Enterprises, a Colorado-based company, hired by Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board to build the trail, commented on the council’s action on Thursday.
“I think it’s a great decision and obviously, we want to make sure the trail system is navigable,” Linnenburger said.