By Matt Davis, Regional Trail Coordinator, Minnesota
After three years of community outreach and organizing, there is a brand new NCTA Chapter in Minnesota!
The Glacial Edge Chapter was officially approved by the Board at their December meeting and its small group of diehard volunteers is already hitting the ground running. The Chapter’s leadership took on responsibility for the NCT from the North Dakota border at Fort Abercrombie southeast and then northeast across Wilkin and Otter Tail Counties to Frazee (where the Laurentian Lakes Chapter takes over). This roughly 100-mile section currently has only 3 miles of certified trail in Maplewood State Park with no marked road walk. Much of the original planned route was to use abandoned railroad grades that are no longer viable options. It is one of the biggest challenges for trail development across the entire 4,600 miles.
A majority of the Chapter’s route section (ND to Maplewood State Park) was just analyzed by Luke Jordan in his Optimal Location Review (OLR) project. Part of the NCT’s route crosses the intensively developed agricultural Red River Valley while the other half heads through a landscape mix of forested hills, crop fields and pasture, abundant lakes and wetlands, rural residential lots, and large lakes with expensive summer homes. Nearly all of the land is privately-owned. Needless to say the Chapter’s task will be a big challenge.
Initially, the Chapter will focus on developing a 9-mile loop trail within the City of Fergus Falls that will be half off-road footpath and half urban trail using City sidewalks and paved trails. Fortunately for the Chapter, there are already some fantastic existing hiking trails on the edge of the City and the planned route will tie them all together with some new trail segments. A lot of partner support has already been cultivated by the Chapter volunteers. The Chapter will be hosting a kickoff membership event this spring at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center that will introduce the NCT to the community and showcase the existing hiking trails in the area. The goals for the event are to generate more interest in the NCT, sign up more charter members, and also recruit additional volunteers to help complete the new NCT segments.