Recreational trails revitalized by NCTC Thief River Falls
For years, awareness of the trail system on the Northland campus known as Northland Trail has not been widespread in the Thief River Falls (TRF) community. Northland hopes to change that. The Northland Trail is being revitalized by formalizing a route, adding a bridge, trail signage, maps, mile markers, animal bag stations, and benches.
This project brings together Northland and the City of TRF in a collaborative effort to make the renovation work attractive to local biking and walking enthusiasts. In addition, Bike TRF was consulted to ensure the improvements were well-suited for bikers, hikers, and walkers alike. Bike TRF is a chapter of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, a bicycle and pedestrian education and advocacy group dedicated to making biking and walking safe, easy, and fun for everyone in the community.
“The modernized Northland Trail provides new options for bicyclists: a dirt trail, a paved trail, a combination of the two, and in the winter a fat-tire bike trail with access to the river,” shares Bike TRF member Andy Mueller, “During winter, the trails can also be used for cross-country skiing.”
The Northland Trail will be officially added to the system being created by the City of TRF and Bike TRF to build a city-wide bike and walk system. In addition, Bike TRF will install a repair station on the Northland Trail portion of the route.
“The goal is to give all riders, single, group, and families, an option for a getting-out-of-town feeling without having to drive an hour to get there,” Mueller explains. “It also connects to the
other trails in TRF, giving us more safe places to ride without having to worry about motorized vehicles too close to us.”
This revitalization work is made possible in part by a grant from the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) of Quin County Community Health Services. SHIP offers grants to entities willing to partner with local bike clubs to create opportunities for recreation within the community to promote healthy living.
“The work supported by the SHIP program in the revitalization of the Northland Trail walk/bike area was to assist in creating signage that indicated the various routes available, along with measuring and detailing the distances of each route,” shares Quin County SHIP Coordinator, Kari Conner. “There were rest benches added to the route as well, which provides an opportunity for every fitness level to safely utilize the route.”
“We have known for some time that the trail system needed an upgrade,” states Clinton Castle, Director of TRF Facilities. “When the SHIP grant became available to help support the cost, we felt this was the time to move forward with this project.”
The newly formalized route consists of over two miles of paved and unpaved trails. Approximately half of the trail system is centered around Northland’s college and athletic facilities. However, the other portion consists of trails that stretch around nearly 32 acres of wooded land owned by the college that runs along the river. Of that 32 acres, nearly 20 were previously inaccessible due to a large drainage ditch that flows through the property. The new bridge now makes the northern 20 acres easily reachable and dramatically expands the wooded route.
Castle continues, “The project will help our community members have a great experience when walking or biking Northland Trail by providing them with directional maps, distance markers, benches to relax and rest, and a bridge that opens up access to an additional mile of trail along the river and through the woods.”
The Northland Trail has four access points throughout the college’s property marked with wayfinding signage. With the bridge installation being recently completed, the trail system is now open to the public and ready for use.