Akeley/Paul Bunyan ATV Club seeking happy trails in Hubbard County

Crow Wing River crossing in north-central Minnesota would eliminate safety hazard, solve erosion issue

It’s technically not part of the Round River ATV Trail.

And for very good reason.

“Our ATV club did have a bridge across the Crow Wing River at one point, but the state had us remove it because of the erosion it was causing,” says Jerry Cole, a member of the Akeley/Paul Bunyan ATV Club in Akeley, Minnesota. “Now, to cross the river, a lot of riders travel about 500 feet down the shoulder of Highway 34, against traffic, just as the speed limit is raised to 55 miles an hour.

“So now we’re faced with an erosion problem—and a serious safety hazard,” he adds. “It’s only a matter of time until someone gets badly injured or killed, and everyone agrees that something needs to be done.”

In 2014, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources—which manages the Heartland State Trail—performed a feasibility study on the Crow Wing River crossing, and recommended that an existing culvert running underneath Highway 34, on the outskirts of Akeley, be extended by about 12 feet.

The solution would not only take ATV riders out of harm’s way—it would also eliminate the erosion problem caused by ATVs leaving protected trail surfaces to use the highway or a pedestrian bridge.

“It’s a simple solution,” says Cole, “and it would allow two ATVs to pass each other if needed.”

The only obstacle remaining for this project is the US$150,000 price tag—and it’s been given a head start by Enbridge’s Ecofootprint Grant Program.

Now in its third year, the Ecofootprint program was established to support environmental restoration and improvement efforts in the communities crossed by our proposed Line 3 Replacement Project.

Earlier this summer, Enbridge announced that 17 organizations in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota would receive Ecofootprint grant funding in 2017. Grants for these grassroots-level environmental initiatives total more than $1 million—and they include a $54,000 donation to the Akeley-based ATV club for the Crow Wing River crossing.

Cole is spearheading this project for the club, with support from the Giziibii Resource Conservation and Development Council, and is hoping to secure the rest of the funding from government—and have the culvert extension complete by summer 2018.

The 60-plus-mile Round River ATV Trail runs through the Paul Bunyan State Forest, connecting the cities of Akeley and Nevis. “It’s used pretty extensively, especially through the summer,” says Cole, who cites a 2011 Minnesota Department of Revenue study estimating that tourism-related activities account for $30 million a year in Hubbard County.

“It’s a beautiful trail, heavily forested,” he adds. “It truly is a treasure to Hubbard County.”