CUYUNA — As the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails grow in worldwide recognition and transforms the Cuyuna lakes area into an adventure-lover’s destination, a movement is underway to expand the trail system.

Plans include diversifying the trails to provide more options for mountain bike riders of all skill levels, increase safety, and eventually provide the opportunity to ride for three days without repeating a trail.

The Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew (Cuyuna Crew), a chapter of the International Mountain Bicycling Association, received a $335,000 matching grant from the E.W. Hallett Charitable Trust to fund the expansion. This grant will match all funds raised for the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails up to $335,000. That’s potentially $670,000, all dedicated to the expansion of the Cuyuna trails.

The Cuyuna Crew, in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Crow Wing County, developed a master vision to expand what is currently 25 miles of singletrack dirt trails to 75 miles of trails all located in the former iron-ore mines surrounding the Crosby-Ironton area and the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area.

“By investing in the trails, we’re investing in our entire region,” said Aaron Hautala, president of the Cuyuna Crew. “We’ve seen through our economic impact statement and cyclist survey that the Cuyuna trails have impacted the economic infrastructure and quality of life all the way to Gull Lake, Cross Lake, Mille Lacs Lake, and the Mississippi River in Aitkin.”

Once the $335,000 is raised ($670,000 in matched funds), the following projects will get started:

Cuyuna Connecting Trail – Ideal for adventurous families and new cyclists, the Cuyuna Connecting Trail would be a 5-mile trail connecting the Yawkey Unit of trails north of Crosby to the City of Cuyuna and the pumptrack, which is currently not accessible by trail.

Cuyuna Hills – The Cuyuna Hills trail will be a 10-mile trail located on Crow Wing County Recreation Land, adjacent to the city of Cuyuna. Once constructed, this will place the city of Cuyuna within the singletrack system, providing expanded cycling opportunities and enhancing accessibility to the city’s pumptrack.

Gravity Flow Trail – Located north of Crosby and south of Cuyuna in the Yawkey Unit, this intermediate-level gravity flow trail will feature action-packed riding. The area’s rolling terrain is well suited for this style of adventure trail that experienced riders enjoy.

“What’s exciting about this potential expansion is creating cycling-specific trails through these new connections,” Hautala said. “Looking at the natural terrain, contour, and designing and building the best possible cycling experience for our residents and visitors is our main objective, all while respecting and purposefully designing around the existing motorized trails that are within these areas.”

The website www.ForCuyuna.com has been developed to securely accept donations and further explain the project. To date, nearly $60,000 has been raised through local contributions.

“Thanks to the matching grant we personally and corporately have the opportunity to invest in Cuyuna to complement the investments the State has made to date,” Hautala continued. “Through these partnerships, we can make Cuyuna happen on a dramatic scale, a scale that will be noticed from an international tourism perspective.”

The Cuyuna Crew is a group of local volunteers who give back to the trails and community by hosting events, conducting trail maintenance, fundraising and promoting trail advocacy. For more information on the trail expansion project, or to make a tax-deductible donation to the trails, visit www.ForCuyuna.com.

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