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Crews work to open area trails

Snowmobile and ski trails in the Northland received a heavy dose of snow last week, but outdoor enthusiasts may have to wait another week for their favorite trails to open.

“The good news is we got all this snow,” said Tom Brown, with the Superior Storm Riders snowmobile club. “The bad news is all the damage that comes with it.”

As of Wednesday, trail access in Douglas County was spotty.

Mark Schroeder, Douglas County Forestry resource and recreation supervisor, said most snowmobile trails were in the process of being cleared and groomed.

Douglas County contracts out maintenance of its snowmobile trails to local snowmobile clubs. Those clubs manage about 300 miles of trail.

“We have a good bunch of clubs here and they’re hard-working folks, but it’s a big project,” Schroeder said. “There’s a very limited number of people who belong to those clubs who are trying to get these trails done.”

 The Afterhours Trail near Brule is groomed and ready for the season. (Photo courtesy of Catherine Khalar)In the northeast quadrant of Douglas County, Schroeder said about half of the trails are ready, and crews will be working on the other half this weekend.

John Deterling, with the Brule River Riders club, said work is progressing nicely in the northeast quadrant.

The Tri County Corridor (Trail 2) is open and groomed from Brule to Loonsfoot Landing in Superior. The Wild Rivers Trail (Trail 35) is open and groomed from the trailhead parking lot at the junction of County Road C and A to Trail 4 east. Trail 4 west from the Wild River Trail to the warming shack at the junction of Trails 4, 41 and 9 is open but not groomed due to swamps not being frozen.

Trail 27 and Trail 27A have been groomed from Brule to the Lake St. Croix landing, but travel across Lake St. Croix is not recommended at this time.

The southeast quadrant also has about half of its trails prepped for the season. A work detail was scheduled to continue work this weekend, and Schroeder said groomers could be on the trails by next week.

Workers in the northwest and southwest quadrants are coping with tougher conditions.

About a third of the trails in the northwest are open, but they remain in early season condition. Trails in the southwest region remain closed due to unfrozen wetlands.

“This year’s going to be real difficult,” Schroeder said. “We actually have too much snow to start with.”

The heavy snow has insulated wetland areas in the northwest and southwest and prevented them from freezing. Until the wetlands are packed and frozen, Schroeder said, crews cannot take groomers out onto the trails.

Workers are also scrambling to clear brush and other hazards from the trails.

In South Superior, Brown said small trees bowed over the trails are causing problems.

“It’s kind of like going through the tunnel of lights over there at Bentleyville, but it’s all trees,” Brown said. “You can’t even hardly walk through them, much less drive through them.”

The Superior Storm Riders have been working to get the trails open, but members are scarce.

“We need new members to get these trails cleared out so we can open them up,” Brown said.

The Superior Storm Riders snowmobile club will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Borders Sports Bar and Grill (3028 E Hwy. 105). Those interested in joining the club or volunteering are encouraged to attend.

The latest conditions for Douglas County trails may be found online (www.douglascountywi.org/forestry) or by calling the Douglas County Trail Hotline at 715-378-4528.

Ski trails

The Afterhours Trail in the Brule River State Forest is already in prime condition for the cross country ski season.

The whole trail system has been groomed, and tracks have been laid for classic skiers. The trails are listed as being in very good condition with an 8-inch base.

A trail pass is required to ski the Afterhours Trail. The state trail admission fee is $20 for the season of $4 for a daily pass.

The Douglas County ski trails near Solon Springs were scheduled to be packed on Tuesday and groomed later this week.

Progress is also being made on the cross country ski trails in the Superior Municipal Forest.

Mary Morgan, Superior parks and recreation administrator, said the city has made headway since last week’s storm, but the trail system is not entirely cleared.

As of Wednesday, the Inner and Outer Red Trail and parts of the Green Trail had been cleared of brush. Those trails were also groomed, but no track has been set for classic skiers.

“We’re doing the best we can with the resources we have,” Morgan said. “We had some trouble initially, but we’re taking it trail by trail.”

Because of two retirements this fall, Superior has only one staff member currently working in the city forest.

City staffers are also working to open 15 outdoor ice rinks by Dec. 20. Morgan said for the first time in several years the rinks should open on schedule, thanks to the recent cold snap.

Once the work on the rinks is complete, the city may shift more staff members to the ski trails.

The city has also received a helping hand from local residents.

“I think we have had some people out volunteering; in fact, I’m sure of it,” Morgan said.

Those interesting in volunteering their time to clear the trails should contact Morgan at 715-395-7279. She said the city welcomes the help, especially with clearing brush, but volunteers cannot use chainsaws due to liability issues.

A yearly or daily ski pass is required to ski in the Superior Municipal Forest. For more information and for current trail conditions, call 715-395-7299.

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