There were dignitaries on hand, including Dakota County Commissioners Willis Branning, Thomas Egan and Nancy Schouweiler. MORC‘s 2012 Land Manager of the Year award went to Dakota County Parks and board member Chris Anderson presented the commissioners with a cool plaque, prior to the official ribbon cutting. And board member Amanda Scholz presented Meghann Fedde with MORC’s 2012 Volunteer of the Year award.
Join us at the West Trailhead Grand Opening event in Lebanon Hills Regional Park 12-4 PM on Saturday! Free event parking onsite and just south of the trailhead on Johnny Cake Ridge Road at the School of Environmental Studies.
Bring your mountain bike to talk gear with experts from Valley Bike and Ski, Penn Cycle, REI and MORC, or borrow one to demo from Trek or Giant Bicycles. Chat about snowshoes, cross-country skis, hiking and even barefoot hiking with Midwest Mountaineering and the Barefoot Hikers of Minnesota. There’s something for everyone!
Dakota County Parks will be passing out swag bag vouchers to the first 200 people in line for the event and can be redeemed between 12:15-4 pm. Doors open at Noon!
I was up there earlier this week and took some photos of the classy new trailhead facility with my crappy smartphone camera:
Mark the date! Dakota County Parks will be putting on a Grand Opening event for the New trailhead/shelter/skills park on October 6th from noon-4pm (note- the festivities will continue past 4 , Dakota just needed to put an end time)
Dakota county has been putting a lot of thought an work into this, looks like its going to be a great time!! The event includes:
Trek and Giant Mountain Bike Demos
Local Bike shop tents
Door Prizes and Swag bags
Rumor has it a local microbrewery will even there!
Among the logos at the bottom of the poster (PDF) is that of The Blue Door Pub. Two of my sons work there and have confirmed that BDP will be at the grand opening all day ‘doing the food.’ My advice: do NOT eat a Juicy Blucy before you ride.
Lebanon Hills has long been known as a premier, if not the premier, off-road cycling destination in Minnesota. And it just got better.
On Aug. 10, Lebanon Hills opened a facility with restrooms, a picnic shelter with grills, and a heated changing area. They also opened a new skills area with turns, jumps, berms, rock gardens and bridges.
The entire Lebanon Hills MTB Park will be closed most of the day on Friday August 10 until 3 PM as the Leb Dirt Bosses and Dakota County Parks staff prep for the opening of the new trailhead and skills/terrain park. The current parking lot will be closed and the new one (paved) opened for the first time. Access to all the trails at Leb will then be behind the new trailhead building.
South/adjacent to the trailhead building is the new skills/terrain park. I got a chance to pre-ride it a bit on Monday with the guy who constructed it, Tim Wegner, owner of Trail Source. (Last fall, I blogged about Tim and his contributions to mountain biking, as did Chance Glasford in his blog.) Dave Tait, one of the Leb Dirt Bosses, joined us for the photo/video shoot.
Above: Dave and Tim riding some of the separate beginner and intermediate level skinnies, rock sections, and logs.
All of the advanced rock sections have multiple lines. The series of photos above shows Tim (left) riding an intermediate line down the one side of the rock pile, Dave (center) riding an advanced line down the middle of the same pile, and me (right) riding up the pile.
Riding down these three rocks (above) is challenging because of the gaps between them. Weight back, wheelie, unweight, repeat. Dave made it look easy. Ride up the rocks for a bit less of a challenge.
The same rocks (above) can be criss-crossed in a variety of ways, intermediate-to-advanced. I predict they’ll be popular with intermediate level riders looking to advance their skills as the rocks 1) have round edges and 2) are surrounded by strategically-placed wood chips to soften the, um, unplanned landings.
This rock section (above) is considerably more difficult when ridden this direction because of the slight downward approach to the extremely narrow skinny of rocks in the middle. Dave was able to clean it a couple of times. The video (see below) of him riding it the other direction (easier) also shows the right-turn, then left-turn narrow wooden skinny approaching the rocks section.
Two other tough obstacles: 1) the skinny made of uneven upright logs (left photo above) has a couple of slight bends in it; and 2) the large round bolder in the middle of the field can be tackled from all directions, not all of them successfully (right photo) I discovered.
There are two connected bermed turns in the NW corner of the park. Beginners can take them slow but there’s room to get a good run at them if you want to go fast.
The south end of the park has three lines of rollers and jumps. Tim shows that you can have fun just riding down the them at various speeds; riders can pump and manual over them, too, of course. The back two runs end with two large berms.
Dave shows (photos above in the 50-second video below) that you have fun jumping there, too.
Last Tuesday I joined a Lebanon Hills trail crew working on the XX rock gardens and was amazed at what was accomplished in two hours.
I only took one photo that night (right), and that was just half of the 20+ people who showed up to work from 6-8 pm. So this week I went back for round 2 to chronicle the follow-up work with photos.
A MORC mountain bike trail work crew is typically organized by the Dirt Bosses for the trail. One of them announces the date and time in the MORC forum for that trail, inviting others to sign up. When I saw this April 23 invitation by John Lundell, one of the Lebanon Hills Dirt Bosses, I just had to go since I love Leb’s rock gardens:
We will continue our efforts in the XX rock gardens this week. Meet in the parking lot (assume trail will be open) – everyone is welcome! Post up if you can make it. Crew leaves the lot promptly at 6pm so if you are coming late let us know.
First lesson I learned: you don’t ride your bike to the work location on the trail. The Dirt Bosses bring all the tools for the job but you’re expected to help carry them. So everyone walks in. They recommend long pants, gloves, boots, and eye protection. Newbies are given a short safety chat on handling the sharp tools.
The task for the crew on this project was to add some difficulty and options to a couple of Leb’s double X rock garden areas. One of the hallmarks of good mountain bike park is that it’s constantly changing, drawing riders at all levels back for new challenges. Leb excels at this and last year’s addition of a huge advanced beginner’s loop is but one example.
Worker bees like me on last week’s crew spent much of our time digging out boulders from the wooded areas around the XX portion of the trail and rolling them downhill (bowling?) for the ‘architects’ to place. While the Bosses have a general idea of what they’re trying to accomplish, everyone’s input is considered because the terrain and available rocks require creativity. "We’re making this up as we go" is the modus operandi.
The photo on the left shows what was accomplished after this week’s session with one section of the trail. The green arrow indicates where the only option was originally. The red arrows indicate four new options, with varying levels of difficulty.
In the center photo, the green arrow shows the original more difficult line down the rock. The red arrows show two new challenging lines down the rock steps. Previously, that line was quite easy.
But I hadn’t been able to get up the larger log that’s towards the end of the intermediate trail (center and right photos) just after the pond. It’s higher, steeper, and curved in a couple of places. When I got to this log yesterday, Dave Tait, one of the MORC dirt bosses, was working on another log (the log is in the background, right photo) with his chainsaw, as he’s got a plan for connecting the two.
Dave had already shaved the a few feet of the lower portion of the log (I didn’t take a photo) since the log is round and small at that point, making it hard to stay on it. Even with that modification, I wasn’t able to get very far. After watching several of my failed attempts, Dave put on his coaching hat.
He suggested 1) that I select a taller gear than my lowest granny gear, as a little more speed can help; and 2) that I pick three different points to focus my eyes as I progressed up the log, as the tendency is do it just once at the start and then revert to looking right in front of one’s front wheel. Voila! My next attempt I got past the tree at the 3/4 point. And a couple of attempts later, I cleaned it. Thank you, coach Tate!
I’ve been reluctant to attempt the high man-made skinny at Murphy-Hanrehan. While I’m confident riding skinnies at the widths it uses, I know that a momentary lapse is possible and I could easily crash. Since it’s about 4 -feet high at its peak and surrounded by small trees, I couldn’t picture how to crash in a way that would minimize injury.
If a skinny is any higher than 1 foot or so off the ground, don’t try it if you can’t bunny hop or wheelie drop. Learn those two things first so when you do feel you will slip or fall off the side, just bunnyhop or wheelie drop and ride away. If you can’t do this, you will endo (go over the bars) if your front wheel comes off…..and endoing is about the most unsafe thing to do.
For those that got out and rode today, hopefully you noticed that the trail was opened well before it was bone dry. As we hiked around yesterday and this evening you can see a lot of dampness in the trail… it could maybe have stayed closed a while longer, but early in the year we like to open it up a little early to get a nice pack-down before the rains hit.
I say this as I know some think we enjoy closing or keeping the trails closed.. not sure why people have that impression as we love to ride too and will always keep you out there enjoying the trails as much as possible.
The entire Leb trail crew thanks everyone for being patient during what was a crappy winter for riding, an extended closing, but an early season opening. Damage was kept to a minimum and that keeps us focusing on other trail repairs, new trail features etc. rather than rut fixing.
All the trails had been cleared of downed branches, as well some big trees (left and center photos above). I cleared small sticks and branches as I went along. I snipped a few buckthorn trees and branches in the rock garden just after Tedman’s Curve (right photo). There’s a tougher option to ride high on the left. I can sneak through to the left of the tree (red arrow) but I’m nowhere close yet to getting over the rock (yellow arrow) as the approach is very steep and there’s no room to get a run at it.
As I wrote in the forum, I can’t believe how lucky I am to have a place like this to ride that’s only 30 minutes from my house.
My wife and I became members of the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota earlier this year when we decided to make bicycling a regular recreational activity… and were thrilled at the number and quality of paved bike trails around the state.
I typed up the text of the article (below) so that more of my fellow Minnesota mountain bikers might A) know what Tim Wegner has done for our sport and thank him for it; and B) become members of the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota, both in appreciation for what they did to help the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trail System become a reality (details in the article) as well as to support the organization and their work.
Tim Wegner: Mountain biking as a way of life
by Linda Picone
For Tim Wegner, a hobby turned into a business. But mountain biking not only changed his life, it helped create a new outdoor resource in Minnesota, the Cuyuna Mountain Bike Trail System, a world-class 25-mile bike trail network with areas for riders at all levels.
Wegner, the former southern Minnesota representative of the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), is credited by many as being the single most effective mover of the the mountain bike trails at the Cuyuna Lakes Recreation Area, which opened for use in June.
In the early 1980s, while Wegner lived Bismarck, ND, he did a lot of road biking and was a regular a local bike shop. “I walked in there one day and there was this funky looking bike,” he says. “The guys said, ‘You’ve got to ride it; it’s the best ride you’ll ever have.’”
They were right, and all of a sudden he was a mountain biker. When he moved to Minnesota about 10 years later, he assumed he was coming to a mountain bike mecca, but was disappointed with the number and quality of trails available. Appointed to a users’ group to represent cross-country skiers for Lebanon Hills Park in Dakota County, he ended up becoming friendly with the man representing mountain bikers and was encouraged to become the local representative of IMBA, becoming an advocate and activist for the sport.
Lebanon Hills turned out to be a good training ground for Wegner. “We learned that it really took a lot of time to build a trail by hand,” he says. Although there were machines that could make it go faster, they cost $25,000 to $40,000–more than Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists, which was doing the work, could afford. “That put the kibosh on plans to expand the trail at Lebanon Hills. You burn your volunteers out pretty fast when they work all weekend to finish 50 feet of trail.”
That frustration led to Wegner’s next move on the mountain bike trail: He and his buddy from the Lebanon Hills user group became partners in a new business venture, Trail Source. They bought one of those expensive machines and went into the business of building sustainable, natural surface trails in Minnesota and Wisconsin (he still has a day job, as a pharmaceutical representative).
A new trail opportunity
About five years ago, Wegner was in search of areas outside the Metro where mountain bike trails could be established. He met with Courtland Nelson, DNR state parks director, to see what might be accomplished. “I said, ‘Minnesota doesn’t have any true mountain bike trails in its state parks; I think you’re missing the mark,” he old Nelson. “He said, ‘You’re right, we don’t.’”
Nelson urged him to look at Cuyuna. “I thought, ‘Who wants to look at an old iron ore mine?’”
That was before he saw it. Wegner took a trip north to explore the Cuyuna Lakes area. “I looked at it and thought it was incredible. The potential was so awesome and the place was so beautiful.” Steve Weber, manager of the Cuyuna Lakes Recreation Area, was with Wegner as he visualized the possibility of 25 to 40 miles of trails through the area, but he didn’t see the same possibilities.
Wegner not only saw what could be built at Cuyuna Lakes, he set out to do what was needed to create it, from convincing then Congressman James Oberstar to get federal funding to getting a bill written at the Minnesota Legislature for matching funds.
“It was incredible the way it came together,” Wegner says. “It could have stumbled at any step.”
The Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota was a key player at several points, Wegner said. When he needed someone to carry–and write–a bill to get matching state funds for the trail, the Parks and Trails legislative liaison Judy Erickson showed him into an office at the State Capitol, got a bill written, found a legislative sponsor and pushed her contacts for approval (it was approved, but then vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, but it passed the next year). “Parks and Trails gave continuous support for us,” Wegner says. “I could always go to Brett (Feldman, now executive director) when I got beat up by someone.” At one point, the Parks & Trails Council provided a $50,000 loan in order to help get matching funds.
The finished trail
Construction of the trails had its challenges, Wegner says. “There were a lot of bidders on it, but not many truly qualified mountain bike trail builders.” That meant he, representing IMBA, was closely involved in advising the contractor. “We bumped heads a few times, but he was always willing to understand our point of view.”
Mountain bike enthusiasts see the finished trails as the best trails for accomplished riders in the Midwest. But Wegner is also pleased that there are trails for all levels of bikers, so it’s a place for families as well as for “aggressive” riders who want a serious challenge. “We put stuff up in Cuyuna Lakes that there’s no way I would ever ride,” he says.
He sees an economic boon for the local community–something he wasn’t even thinking about when he first envisioned a trail. “I was only looking for a place to ride mountain bikes, but I looked at the town and saw a lot of empty storefronts,” he says. “I thought maybe we could have an economic impact on this town.” During the grand opening of the trails in June, both restaurants in town ran out of food, he says. “That says to me, yeah, mountain bikers can make a difference.”
The next challenges
Wegner is still hoping to make progress on a trail system in Camden State Park and there are trail possibilities at Pillsbury State Forest and Cut Lake Trail in Foothills State Forest. But, other than his business, he’s taking a quieter role. “I think at certain times you need to step away a little bit and let others come in.”
He looks back at his activities as IMBA representative and at the push for the Cuyuna Mountain Bike Trail System and he’s satisfied: “I think we’ve improved the status of mountain bikers in Minnesota and I don’t think you could ask for more out of your life than to make it better for a sport you have a passion for.”