Brule River State Forest hoping to improve ski propertyIt may still be a few years off, but the Brule River State Forest staff is looking forward to an upgrade at the Afterhours Trail. “We’re moving forward with a proposal to create a new warming shelter at the Afterhours Trail,” said Kevin Feind, a ranger for the Brule DNR. “It should be very nice.”
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
It may still be a few years off, but the Brule River State Forest staff is looking forward to an upgrade at the Afterhours Trail.
“We’re moving forward with a proposal to create a new warming shelter at the Afterhours Trail,” said Kevin Feind, a ranger for the Brule DNR. “It should be very nice.”
Feind outlined the state forest’s plans at its annual spring meeting April 30. The new warming house would be a 24-by-36-foot log structure with an attached, covered porch at the front. Inside, a free-standing fireplace would help warm the building during the ski season. The new shelter, which would be almost twice as large as the current one, is also expected to include changing rooms for skiers.
It would be built about 20 feet south of the current warming house location to allow handicapped accessibilty.
“We’re talking about moving it just slightly down-slope so that when you come into the parking lot you come to the front of the building instead of the side of the building,” Feind said. A ramp could then lead inside from the parking lot, allowing wheelchair access to the shelter.
The Brule River State Forest used the recently built shelter at Black River State Forest as a model for its plans. The Brule staff hopes to duplicate Black River’s in-floor heating system at the Afterhours Trail shelter. Feind said the heat could be turned on overnight during non-peak hours to keep the space at about 55 degrees during the day when the heat is turned off. The free-standing fireplace could warm the space further if needed.
When completed, the warming shelter will be a welcome addition to the state forest property, but Feind said completion of the project is a long way off. The paperwork is just now being filed to gain approval for the new building and to obtain funding.
“Realistically, we’re probably looking at three to four years out before any money would come forward for that,” Feind said. The shelter wouldn’t be available until 2015 at the very earliest.
Meanwhile, use of the Afterhours Trail was up significantly this year. According to Feind, about 75 percent of skiers came to the trails from Minnesota. Early snowfall in the Brule region, combined with a lack of snow in the Twin Ports, drew many Minnesota skiers to the trails for the first time.
The Afterhours Trail boasts about 25 kilometers of groomed ski trails. Loops of various difficulties are available for both classic and skate style skiers. Two snowshoe loops, totaling about 3 miles of trail, were also added this season.
“Our current building, we simply have outgrown,” Feind said. “We’re starting to become pretty well-known throughout the whole area as a place to come ski. We had our first high school race this last winter. The College of St. Scholastica and many other ski teams were training here. The building we have right now is just too small.”
Another flaw of the current building is its lack of handicapped accessibility — a huge drawback for the state forest.
This year’s annual spring meeting was held at the Brule Town Hall because of the accessibility issue. A wheel-chair accessible site is needed to hold meetings, and currently the Brule staff has no such building on state forest property.
Brule River State Forest superintendent Dave Schulz said the annual meetings could be moved back to state forest property with the construction of the new warming shelter. The DNR could also use the building to host other local events.
Josh McIntyre, who organizes and runs educational programs for the state forest, is excited about the opportunities the new shelter would provide for learning.
“For the educational programs, I can’t offer them inside because we don’t have anything wheelchair accessible,” McIntyre said. “So I’m excited about this project too.”
During the spring and summer, and in the fall months before the snow falls, the Afterhours Trail is used by archers and various student groups. When school groups come to visit the state forest, McIntyre said he’d use the new shelter to give PowerPoint presentations. It would also serve as an ideal place to gather in case of bad weather.
“We actually utilize that picnic area for school groups that come in to do canoeing; we kind of scoot over there for lunch,” McIntyre said. “So I think it’s going to be a huge asset for the property.”
New firewood restrictions are in place for the Brule River State Forest this year as a result of the emerald ash borer (EAB) threat. Visitors bringing their own firewood to the state forest may only do so if it was harvested within a 25-mile radius of the property. The previous regulation allowed firewood from up to 50 miles away.
As of 2009, 11 Wisconsin counties were under quarantine because of EAB. All of the counties are in southern Wisconsin, and all but two are on the state’s eastern border. EAB has not yet been detected in Douglas County.