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The Trail To A Biking Mecca

Updated: June 14, 2019 12:09 AM

"I continue to meet new couples that are new to Duluth and they have chosen to live here based on the trails and the recreation opportunities that we have here," Dee Bartlam said. Bartlam is the Ride Director for Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores, also known as COGGS.

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She says you can do much more than mountain bike on the nearly 100 miles of Duluth's trail system known as the Duluth Traverse. "Not just for mountain biking, but all in one day you could bike, you could hike, you could run on these trails. You could go kayaking on Lake Superior."

No matter what form of recreation you enjoy, it is no accident that Duluth is getting attention for its outdoor opportunities. It's the combination of the massive trail system, the variety of the terrain, and the community ammenities that have given Duluth national recognition as a gold ride center.

"That's a designation from the International Mountain Biking Association," City of Duluth Parks and Recreation Trails Coordinator Matt Andrews said. "There is only a handful of those in the country, and we happen to be one of those gold level ride centers right here in Duluth."

Duluth was first named a gold ride center in 2014 and that was renewed in 2018, making Duluth a prime biking destination. "We are one of six in the world. There are some places out in Utah and New Zealand, but that means we are a destination and we have the ammenties to support both riding and just recreating in general," COGGS Board Chair Alec Kadlec said.

With people traveling from all over the region to come explore Duluth's trails, it may be boosting the local economy in a big way.

"We do have some data from a study done by a University of Minnesota Duluth graduate saying that anywhere from 60,000 to 65,000 visitors are coming just specifically for the mountain biking," Andrews said. "Of course, once they are here they are going to stay, they are going to visit our craft district, our downtown, and they are going to see all the other amenities that we have."

So whether you are looking for the jumps, bumps, and challenging terrain of the Piedmont section of the trail, or you are like me and prefer a more leisurly ride, The Duluth Traverse has what you are looking for.

"I'm a beginner. I started about a year ago and I feel like Duluth has a lot of different trails for every level," Beginner Mountain Biker Melina Avinon said. "Being a beginner I can still enjoy the trails here, which is the best part, and from there I can get better and keep improving and trying harder trails."

Avinon is not alone in her enjoyment of the Duluth landscape. "I really like the scenery for one," Andrews said. "I like the variety of trails that we have on the ground. I want to see them. I want to experience them and see the big picture of how everything connects."

Andrews says it hasn't always been a smooth ride along the path to becoming a major mountain biking hub though. "This sport only started about 30 years ago, so to get from 30 years ago to where we are today has definitely been a bit of an uphill battle."

Despite the monumental task ahead of them, joint efforts between The City of Duluth, COGGS, and other community organizations have turned what was once a dream into a reality for everyone to enjoy. "We are really close to realizing that master plan and that vision," Andrews said. "I believe that it calls for 104 miles of trail and we are closing the gap in on that right now to realize the master plan."

As the Duluth Traverse nears completion, the trails are becoming more accesible than ever before. "We are connecting communities to these trails," Andrews said. "I beleive the saying is no citizen is going to be more than half a mile away from a trail."

Join WDIO News at Ten every Thursday to get the latest tips and tricks you need to enjoy the trails in the Duluth area as well as updated trail conditions.

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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