A team of AmeriCorps volunteers is helping complete a new loop hiking trail off the North Country Trail in the Paul Bunyan State Forest in northern Minnesota.
AmeriCorps field team leader Rusty Graham said his crew arrived last week. They began working with the Itasca Moraine Chapter of the North Country Trail Association on creating the new loop trail, which is about 1.2 miles circling Lake 21 near the Nelson Lake campground in Hubbard County.
"It's projected to take eight to 10 days and we're making pretty good progress," Graham said.
They have been working nine-hour days but haven't complained too much. The volunteers are carving the trail out of a thickly wooded area around the lake.
First, the area is roughly cleared and then detail work is done.
"The weather is just perfect and I love the outdoors," said AmeriCorps volunteer Jessica Beck, of Ft. Wayne, Ind. "I've never been to Minnesota so this was a great opportunity."
The trail work is a new experience for Jasmine Ulrich, of Waupaca, Wis.
"I'm not used to working outside like this but it definitely feels good to walk over what we have completed," she said. "The nice weather has been another star on the cookie, you could say."
AmeriCorps volunteers have a 10 month commitment. This team has been working around the country on different projects since February.
Bruce Johnson, president of the Itasca Moraine Chapter, said the trail was approved by Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails before they started the project. Funding comes from the National Park Service, along with dues from Itasca Moraine members, grants and township donations.
"We're doing some building of new trails but we're really trying to promote what we already have too," Johnson said.
The Itasca Moraine Chapter of the North Country Trail Association maintains more than 70 miles of trail in Hubbard and Cass Counties between Itasca State Park and County Highway 125 within the Chippewa National Forest near Longville.
The chapter currently has 61 members, Johnson said.
"Volunteers provide routine maintenance, twice a year," he said. "It's a labor of love."
He and other members will continue to promote the trail and hiking opportunities in the area.
For more information on the North Country Trail and Itasca Moraine Chapter, go to http://northcountrytrail.org/trail/states/minnesota/explore-by-section/itasca-moraine-chapter/