The Paul Bunyan Trail is used year-round by snowmobile enthusiasts, bikers, runners and inline skaters. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) recently announced the Paul Bunyan State Trail as the newest member of the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) recently announced the Paul Bunyan State Trail as the newest member of the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame was established in 2007 to honor 25 outstanding rail-trails around the country. Out of 1,600 open rail-trails and approximately 750 more in development, Hall of Fame inductees are selected based on merits such as scenic value, trail and trailside amenities, historical significance, excellence in management and maintenance of facility, community connections and geographic distribution.
The Paul Bunyan State Trail passes through 15 communities in north-central Minnesota, including Merrifield, Nisswa, Pequot Lakes and Jenkins, and extends 112 miles from the northern end in Lake Bemidji State Park south to Brainerd's Northland Arboretum.
An extension on the southern end to Crow Wing State Park is set for construction in 2012, and plans are under way to create an off-road route through Bemidji.
When these projects are completed, the Paul Bunyan State Trail will become the longest continuously paved rail-trail in the country. Currently, it is visited by more than 650,000 users a year and has become one of the premier state trails in Minnesota.
"It's an awesome privilege to have a Hall of Fame trail here in Minnesota. (The honor) will bring national attention, and bikers from all over the country can come enjoy it," said Forrest Boe, deputy director for the Division of Parks and Trails in the DNR, which owns and manages the trail.
The idea for the trail emerged in 1983 when the county lost its 90-year-old Burlington Northern rail line. The late Terry McGaughey, a longtime trail advocate, saw the potential of a trail along the corridor and committed himself to rallying local communities in support of the project.
Thanks in large part to the patience and perseverance of McGaughey - who is seen as the "Father of the Trail" - the Paul Bunyan State Trail has initiated a new sense of community and tourism since the first section opened in 1988.
"When I think of the Paul Bunyan State Trail, I think of time and space," said Jeff Ciabotti, vice president of trail development for RTC. "While riding along this iconic rail-trail, time seems to slow down and space seems ever expanding. From the start, Terry McGaughey understood this allure and used it to help create an unforgettable trail experience."
Twenty-one trails have been named to the Hall of Fame thus far. The program will conclude on Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's 25th anniversary celebration on National Trails Day, June 4, 2011.
For a complete list of the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame designations and stories, including a Trail of the Month feature on the Paul Bunyan State Trail, visit RTC's website at www.railstotrails.org.
For more information about the Paul Bunyan State Trail, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_trails/paul_bunyan/index.html.
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