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The Dynamic Duo conducts accessible trail evaluation and inventory for improvements and repair for the city of Duluth, Minnesota.

arrowFrom the Fall 2008 issue of American Trails Magazine

 

"Dangerous trails of Duluth"

By Dwight Morrison and Randall Vogt

Map of Minnesota

WHEW! I CAN'T BELIEVE I made that last turn on two wheels over that new bridge! Lester River trail follows the ridge along the 50-foot deep river gorge, and I had just rolled downhill along the full Eastern Lester Trail! My battery powered cart that I rode had quit about 1.2 miles back while we were evaluating the trail for accessibility. All I could do was point it downhill, release the brake, and freewheel down the edge of the rocky abyss. Once I had made the hike I thought I had rolled down the most dangerous trail in Duluth, until we evaluated ten other "Dangerous Trails of Duluth, Minnesota." —Dwight Morrison.

graphic

photo: scooter on trail

Accessible Trail Evaluation on the Hartley Trail in 2008

 

Our team of three had many adventures while conducting Accessible Trail Evaluations in 2007 to determine the repairs needed to bring trails closer to the 1999 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) proposed trail guidelines. This year it was very rewarding to go back and see the improved trail. Obviously, the total trail could not be made accessible by simple repairs, but a large segment of it could be. We used a modified form of the Universal Trail Assessment Process (UTAP) that could be implemented by trail users with disabilities.

“Dangerous trails”

Duluth is a city built on a rocky hillside overlooking the giant inland lake called Lake Superior, in the northeast corner of Minnesota. Creeks and rivers have cut beautiful rocky gorges down the tree-covered hills into Lake Superior.

The beginning of our dangerous trail story goes back five years, when we at Wheels On Trails (WOT) Organization realized that there were a number of spectacular natural trails in Duluth that were also dangerous. Dangerous, not because of the trail features alone, but because of the lack of maintenance and repairs over a period of years. Over the last decade, as with many cities during this period, parks and trails were not a very high priority. We (WOT) changed that in 2007 by coming up with $10,000 in donations to begin trail evaluations. If we could document the "unrepaired" state of the eleven most promising Duluth trails, we could then justify the repair costs to bring these trails back to a standard that would make them "universally accessible."

 

photo of trail and wheelchair user graphic

Dwight Morrison taking notes on trail condition

 

We cooperated with the City Forester to apply for and subsequently obtain a $10,000 matching grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The repair project has extended over two summers, with the major Accessible Trail Evaluation (ATE) work being done in the summer of 2007. City of Duluth repairs will improve accessibility for five of the eleven trails that were evaluated by the project.

Wheels On Trails

On Trails its name. We are a group of trail users with disabilities or health limitations that like to get outdoors and enjoy our parks, beaches, and trails. We also believe that we should give back to nature in the form of support for access to our public lands. We have had phenomenal support and growth with over $20,000 in donations and support in 2007 directed at our trail evaluation efforts. Our newsletter is now getting out to over 1,500 people.

 

Our mission is to support "universal trails and parks for everyone" with a particular 2008 emphasis on "promoting the safe use of environmentally sensitive natural trails by people who have disabilities and/or health limitations."

 

graphic photo: narrow trail
A washout results in an inaccessible trail width of 14 inches

Goals and projects

Our goals in 2008 are to:

1. INVOLVE individuals with disabilities in the exploration, support, and enjoyment of the outdoor environment by use of parks and trails.

2. EVALUATE natural trails by disabled pedestrians using the latest accessibility guidelines.

3. MODIFY trail users' assistive devices (scooters, wheelchairs, etc.) to support safe travel, facilitate trail evaluation, and provide for enjoyable park and trail use.

4. REPAIR and REHABILITATE existing parks and trails to increase accessibility and move towards universal trail access.

 

 

 

Photo overlooking creek graphic

Randall Vogt, co-chair of Wheels On Trails

 

 

Our "Expanding Horizons" project will assist in the use of existing Duluth trails by people with disabilities. The "Model Universal Trail" project is also progressing, with the goal of rehabilitating the Western Waterfront Trail to ADA guidelines, and then extending it in cooperation with the new Duluth Trail Alliance. Our next project will be to move ahead with the "Accessible Park Evaluation" that we are currently testing.

We've had the biggest adventure of our lives with Wheels On Trails, working on these trails. We have lived through the evaluations and facilitated repair of many beautiful trails. Come visit us in the northland of Minnesota and experience the "Dangerous Trails" of Duluth!

Dwight Morrison and Randall Vogt are retired volunteers who spend 10-20 hours a week as trail workers and mentors. For more information on Wheels On Trails: 424 W. Superior Street, Suite 201, Duluth MN 55802; call (218) 729-7126 or email wheelsontrails@yahoo.com.

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