… a great opportunity to network with other park and trail supporters from around the state, learn about the issues, and hear from park leaders and legislators. Whether you come as a member of a Friends group, a concerned citizen or a student looking to learn about the process, you’ll leave informed and your involvement strengthens our efforts to preserve and enhance Minnesota’s special places! The morning will equip you with the necessary tools to meet with your legislators.
Wegner recalled that once he and others were glumly discussing the fact that they didn’t have the necessary state money to match the potential federal money when Parks & Trails Government Relations Director Judy Erickson approached them and asked what was wrong. They explained and she took them to the sixth floor of the State Office Building, told the people there that she wanted a bill written and what she wanted it to say and then took it to DFL Rep. John Ward and Republican Sen. Paul Koering and told them to sponsor it. Eventually, the $150,000 was appropriated. “The state is getting a million dollar trail for $150,000,” Wegner said.
Griff, I remember that conversation with Judy very well. It was amazing to me how much Judy was respected by everyone that she spoke with. Everyone from the people that wrote the bill to Rep Ward and Sen. Koering treated her with respect and obvious appreciation for all the work she did to lobby for state parks.
The energy that Judy exudes is infectious, she has such a positive attitude and full of attitude of we can get this done. She was also critical in holding my hand as I testified in front of the house committee in support of the bill. What a scary experience but, I knew that Judy was there and could always help me with a difficult question.
I asked Judy to send me a blurb about her role. She wrote:
A veteran lobbyist, sharing her strategic legislative and communications skills, and passion, to help communities secure state investments for economic development, tourism and infrastructure. For Cuyuna, helping them develop a community wide approach to state investments in the Cuyuna Lakes Trail and CSRA and turning the area into the place for active recreation year-round; and creating business opportunities along the way. "One ride on a mountain bike was all it took. The adrenaline and the scenic beauty of Cuyuna combine for an amazing memory." Unique signature, besides working really hard, is sharing apples and apple pies or two from our Pleasant Valley Orchard.
My photos of others who spoke during the morning session:
Brett Feldman, Parks and Trails Council Executive Director; Luke Skinner, Deputy Director of MnDNR Parks and Trails Division; Erika Rivers, Assistant Commissioner of MnDNR
Greg Mack, Director of Ramsey County Parks and Recreation; Tom Ryan, Superintendent of Olmsted County Parks; Rep. Alice Hausman, Chair of House Capital Investment Committee;
Rep. Leon Lillie, Assistant Majority Leader, Vice-Chair Legacy Committee; Rep. Jean Wagenius, Chair of House Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Finance Committee; Sen. David Tomassoni, Chair of Senate Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Division.
Sen. Dan Sparks, member, Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Division; Rep. Phyllis Kahn, Chair of House Legacy Committee; Rep. Denny McNamara, member, Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Finance Committee; Joe Bagnoli, Government Relations Consultant for Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota.
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.
(Update 4/22, 6pm: I’ve added the photo on the left of me and Chance taken earlier today at the Leaders’ Summit.)
Chance has cited an article in Elevation Outdoor Magazine titled The Park’s The Place , because “it pretty much says it all about why we, the riders in the metro, need bike parks, why I pushed for it and why we are working so hard to get this completed to make the bike park a reality and an enjoyable place to ride, train and improve as riders!” An excerpt:
Enter the latest trend in mountain biking: bike parks. Designed and built especially for bikes, these facilities offer everything from jaw-dropping stunts to beginner-level trails. While an in-town setting doesn’t provide the escape of a long ride in the mountains, bike parks are highly accessible and a great way to improve cycling fitness and skill levels…
“It’s been exciting to see the explosion in popularity,” says Lee McCormack, who teaches mountain bike skills clinics at Valmont. “The parks really have a broad appeal. Dads and moms, older and younger siblings can all find elements that challenge them, while staying in close proximity to each other.”
And, says McCormack, when you do get out for that remote singletrack journey, the practice you’ve logged in the park will pay off. “I’m riding better than ever on trails—smoother, faster and more controlled—because of all the time I spend honing my technique in a park context,” says McCormack.
I visited the Eagan bike park last night. Trevor ? (white shirt) lives nearby and has been working on the park with Chance. He was there with his friend Nate and gave me a few quick lessons on his new BMX bike. Saaaweeeet! I was able to get around the beginner level pump track without pedaling on my 29er hardtail. It helped to lock out my front suspension. The intermediate loop (they’re connected) is a hoot and definitely tougher. Trevor can fly around it and it was inspiring to watch him. Here are a few more photos:
It’s no surprise that Tim Wegner has had a hand in this. He wrote last fall in the MORC forum:
A few months ago Chance contacted me and asked if I thought we could renovate the Lexington Park. I told him I would assist with city type things and help him get approval for the work he wanted to do. This discussion went on for a while focusing around not only a dirt jump area but also building a pump track.
Chance and I met with the city of Eagan yesterday afternoon and have gotten approval to move forward with the plan Chance has put together. We are using some design plans from Lee McCormick as well as local input. The city of Eagan is going to begin to destruct half of the jumps this fall yet, move the dirt into piles with construction to begin next spring or earlier if this dry weather holds. Eagan is totally on board with the plan and are excited to see someone take hold of this project.
I just want to thank everyone that showed up to help build! We had a great turn out despite the on and off rain all day. I believe we had 12 people that showed up. I want to give a huge shout out to Tim Wegner and Mike Mullany for bringing their machinery and operating it all day long for us! We moved a ton of dirt and made a lot of awesome track!
I want to thank QBP for allowing so many of their employees to come out and help build. I want to think Josh Abrahamson for bringing a grill and sausages. I want to thank Clay Haglund for driving all the way up from Mankato to help out and donating a push broom to the cause! Shout out to Adam Buck for sending the beautiful Red Bull ladies our way for a nice mid afternoon pick-me-up! I also want to thank Thor and Nick for all their attention to detail and really making the two completed tracks super dialed in!
Over all it was a huge success. We dialed the beginner pump track, completed the second pump tack, which is a replica of the Whistler Crankworx ’10 and got the 3rd pump track, a replica of sea otter ’09 roughed in!
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.”
I spend the afternoon on Saturday at Lebanon Hills, much of it on the new riding area that opened a week ago.
It’s considered a beginner loop, though some folks in the MORC forum trail discussion are referring to it as a beginner + loop. Trail designer Tim Wegner wrote:
I believe that we felt there was a bit too much of a gap between the old beginner trail and the intermediate trail as far as features and skill required to ride. The new beginner addendum trail kinda fills that gap. It is a bit more difficult than the old beginner trail but not as much hard climbing as the intermediate trail. I think this new segment of trail will really fill the bill as far as helping to enhance rider skill development. Perhaps this segment should be labeled advanced beginner????
I had the good fortune to meet current MORC Chair Ryan Lieske on the new loop and took a bunch of photos of him riding the five big berms in the upper open area and the smaller berms in the lower open area. Looking good, Ryan!
I also took several photos of beginners riding these features, including the 21 whoops and the 6 larger jumps in the lower area. The father and son in the center photo above repeatedly rode those, whooping and hollering for joy every time they went down. And true beginners can get through the area without actually having to ride the ‘obstacles’ as evidenced by the photo of the woman on the right, who, when she noticed me taking her photo, shouted "I’m scared to death!" No wonder: her mountain biking outfit consisted of short-shorts, a tank top and a baseball cap. Oy. But she got through it.
I spent an hour practicing the lower berms of the open area. I probably rode them 20 times, which was easy to do since it only takes a minute or two to get back to the top of them. I then went back and rode the 5 big berms of the upper area (which only takes 5-10 minutes to get to the top of those). My skill and confidence had increased dramatically. Thank you, Tim!