When Henry Campbell, 19, was finishing his senior year at Marshall School in Duluth, he set his sights on mountain bike trails in Superior for his senior project.
Now, two years after his 2019 graduation, Campbell is still gathering volunteers and heading to the Superior Municipal Forest on Wednesday evenings to clear brush and dig out the bed to make trails for mountain bikers off the Millennium Trail.
Initially, Campbell said he’d hoped for a trail parallel to the yellow ski trail on Dwight’s Point, but realized the undertaking was probably too much. Instead, he developed a plan to build three trails off the Millennium Trail where mountain bikers could venture. The plan garnered approval from the city's Parks and Recreation Commission and a $5,000 budget for tools the month he graduated.
One trail segment proposed would have required quite a bit of boardwalk to protect the wetlands and likely wouldn’t have fit in the budget, Campbell said.
By fall, the project had to be put on hold so Campbell could head to Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan, for his first year of college.
But when he returned home for the summer, Campbell got to work again, walking the site with the city’s environmental regulatory manager to investigate wetland impacts, and setting flags for the new trail.
"At that point, we started having weekly two-hour volunteer trail-building sessions," Campbell said.
With the help of trail builders and members of Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores, volunteers got to work clearing one of the planned routes.
So far, volunteers have invested almost 200 hours working on the two trails that will be forged into the forest. The northernmost segment is nearing completion and work is underway to clear the western segment.
“It’s hot and sweaty and buggy and full of clay,” said Dan Blank of Superior who volunteered on some of the evenings Campbell assembled volunteers last summer. “It is really a monumental manual labor project. For him to have the vision and assemble the volunteers to get out there, the city’s partnership with the equipment and helping to approve the routes. As a citizen, I’m thrilled to see this progress … this is a tremendous asset for the city of Superior.”
Blank said while mountain biking wasn’t the top of the list when he served on the committee that developed Superior’s Outdoor Recreation Plan, it did make the list of priorities based on survey results.
“By the end of the summer of 2020, we had finished digging out one-third of the riding surface,” Campbell said, estimating the length of the spur at about a quarter mile. “It takes a long time to do that by hand.”
Campbell said the entire route was cleared last year in preparation for work to begin again this summer.
By June, volunteers finished digging out the riding surface of the first trail. Superior’s trail crew is working on the three bridges needed on the segment, and volunteers will go back out to finish the abutments once the decking is installed, Campbell said.
In the meantime, Campbell said he’s looking for more volunteers to help clear the path for a second, longer trail for mountain bikers.
“We’re out there pretty much every Wednesday at 6 p.m. and now that we’re working on the segment on the western end of the trail, they’d find us in the parking lot on the western end of the trail,” Campbell said.
Campbell said he’s been living at home in Superior and working in Duluth in the summer to keep the project going.
“Hopefully, someone will be inspired to take over,” Campbell said. “Superior has a ton of potential for mountain bike trails.”
Until then, he said he at least wants to see the project through to completion.
“It’s fun to see other people use something that you made,” Campbell said.
Councilor Keith Kern, whose district includes the Superior Municipal Forest, commended Campbell for his work on the project.
“I’m glad to see you’re continuing on with it,” Kern said.
"It's just amazing if you go out there and see it," Blank said. "They've been very respectful of the natural habitat. The forest should be used respectfully, and people are going to use it. I just know it's going to open up a wealth of opportunities here."
This story was updated at 11 a.m. Monday, Aug. 2, to correct the school Henry Campbell attended during his senior year of high school. It was originally posted at 6 a.m. Wednesday, July 28. The Telegram regrets the error.