When we first started thinking about the Grass-tops Initiative - our effort to help network and empower the human powered recreation community at key locations around the nation - we admit that Duluth, MN was not a place we imagined going. But we were told that Duluth has incredible recreation opportunities and was primed for this sort of cooperation. Thankfully, we took this advice and added Duluth to our list.
Last week, we travelled to Minnesota to host a meeting of recreation and community leaders. The first order of business, however, was to see the city and what it has to offer. Turns out, you can do just about anything you want in Duluth, most of it within city limits: Lift-served mountain biking on flow trails. Ice climbing. Steep creeking. Freshwater surfing. 100 miles of lit, groomed cross-country skiing. Hiking on the Superior Hiking Trail.
Perhaps just as importantly, this long list of recreation opportunities is combined with some pretty friendly attitudes and policies towards outdoor recreation. While there, we were lucky enough to meet Duluth's Mayor Don Ness, who impressed us with his vision for the future of Duluth, incorporating recreation as a key component.
That evening, we met with 25 local leaders to help facilitate a discussion about how to move recreation forward and realize the potential for Duluth. With longtime educators, recreation advocates, and community leaders in attendance, the pride in Duluth and its recreation opportunities was impressive and exciting. While all the forms of recreation are not without threats, it was refreshing to work with a group so focused on maximizing opportunities in the future. The meeting wrapped up with promising momentum towards a recreation-focused local coalition. From more concrete land protections to better communications about outdoor recreation, there is no shortage of valuable projects for a group like this to pursue.
With the meeting so successful, our one regret was that we were not able to sample much of the recreation we heard so much about. With low skies and gusting winds, Duluth showed its inclement, but no less beautiful side. We had settle for walking, not riding the local trails. Until we return to mountain bike, ski or climb, we are excited to continue to work with this local network to protect and enhance all the recreation opportunities in Duluth.
No, not the ocean.
Special thanks to Tim Bates of the University of Minnesota Duluth and Hansi Johnson, IMBA Midwest Regional Director, for all their help. For some great photography from the Duluth area - on good days and bad - check out Hansi's blog.