A few days after I posted a story of mine about the Glacial Lakes Trail, I ended up in a conversation with some old friends who I have known since high school.
High school, in my case, was a long time ago and we’ve all gone off and done different things, married, moved to different parts of the country and see each other very infrequently.
But one of us, who lives about the farthest from Willmar was in town over for the weekend so we got together.
A couple people in the group knew about my interest in bikes and asked a few questions:
How much do I ride?
Did I ride to the get together at a home on one of the area’s lakes?
What prompted me to start riding?
Somehow the conversation drifted to trails and the range of opinions on the topic surprised me.
Trails are OK, one friend said, but it should be recognized that they’re used for recreation, not transportation and funded by some agency other than the state transportation department.
Too few people use them, said another member of the group. No more should be built and no more tax dollars should be put into those that already exist.
But more people are biking for transportation than ever, said the out of towner, who is an avid cyclist. One of his sons, for example, lives in a large city and his two modes of transportation are mass transit and his bike.
It was kind of hard for me to offer much of an opinion because my feelings about trails are kind of mixed.
I’d like to be able to pedal down a trail from Willmar all the way to St. Cloud, but I’d only make that ride a few times a year.
Right now I’m preparing for the Bon Ton Roulet, a week-long ride around New York’s Finger Lakes which will involve some serious climbing.
I need to spend as much time as I can riding the hilliest territory I can find. While on one of my longer rides a few months ago, I met a man in Paynesville who used to live near the Finger Lakes. He’s a cyclist too and described some of the riding in that portion of New York as 45 minutes up and 10 minutes down.
Most trails around here, and in much of the country, are built on old railroad routes and are as flat as possible.
I still ride Glacial Lakes regularly, but use it as a quick route home or a stretch of flat pavement on which to cool down after a long ride.
On recent trips to St. Cloud, I’ve seen a biker-hiker bridge being built where a railroad bridge once stood near Richmond. There’s trail in the vicinity of the bridge, but that’s miles from Paynesville, which is about as far as you can get riding Glacial Lakes.
But I’ve heard fro
m people who probably know that state trail money will be targeting paths that move bikers and hikers within communities, not between them.
If that’s true, it’s better than nothing and probably better serving the majority of people who use trails.
And, if it isn’t extended, maybe part of Glacial Lakes can be fixed.
The older portion of the trail, from Willmar to New London, is filled with patched cracks and potholes and is in need of repair. That’s the stretch of the trail that gets the most use.
Far fewer riders use the more recently paved portion of the trail from New London to Hawick and beyond. Much of that stretch, unfortunately, runs right along Highway 23 for any motorist who notices the trail to see that it’s often empty.
And the impression given by such light use is one of the reasons why some people want to pull state money from all trails.