First CROCT trail work day scheduled: April 19 at Sechler Park

 Marty Larson, AKA Paul Bunyan Marty Larson Marty Larson, AKA Paul Bunyan

On Wednesday afternoon, Marty Larson and I visited the Cannon Rivers bottoms in Sechler Park to scout a trail, do a little marking, and clear some downed branches.  We need some demonstration trails to show members of the Northfield Parks Board (PRAB) what singletrack looks like and where it might go.  We are NOT authorized to do any ‘creating’ at this point (eg, building berms, rollers, technical obstacles, etc).

We’d like to get a team of volunteers out Saturday morning, April 19th, to clear things out a bit more.

  • 8 am: socializing at the Goodbye Blue Monday or Tandem Bagels, whichever is quieter/has space.
  • 9 am: meeting at the pavilion / playground near the south entrance Sechler Park.

bow saw hand pruners loppers

Bring hand pruners, branch loppers, and bow saws so we can clear the trails where we’ll want PRAB members to walk. Bring rakes, too, as the ground is thick with years of composting leaves and vegetation. Eventually when most of the work is done, we will be installing the outdoor, brush cameras we got from shooting authority, they will surely capture great shots.

Park gates are NOT open till May 1.  So if you’re coming in a vehicle, it’s probably best to park in the cul-de-sac behind Walgreens, as there’s not a lot of room for parking at the far end of Sechler by the Heath Creek entrance.
It’s fine to ride in on your bikes.  The double-track from either end is solid now.  So if you’re biking from Northfield, ride the road to the first baseball field and then cut behind it. Here’s a screenshot of a map. The red X is where we’ll be working.
Sechler Pk work day april 19

Northfield News article on fat biking gives a mention to CROCT and some CROCTers

Northfield News

Nick Gerhardt (@NorthfieldNick), the new sports reporter for the Northfield News, has an article in today’s paper titled that mentions CROCT: Fat bike fanatics becoming growing base. CROCTers mentioned include Ryan Hutchinson, Christopher Tassava, and Jerry Bilek.

Mountain bike enthusiasts in the Northfield area have formed an organization named Cannon River Offroad Cycling and Trails, which has met three times and selected a board of directors. The group has started early discussions on making a trail near Sechler Park in Northfield, Hutchinson said.


The 2014 CROCT Board debuts

At our April meeting tonight, the people who showed up formed the 2014 CROCT Board of Directors and elected Board officers.  More details forthcoming from our new Secretary, but in the meantime, here’s who’s who:

Carl Arnold, Treasurer
Jeremy Bokman
Sarah Jansen
Scott Koehler
Marty Larson, Chair
Galen Murray
Curtis Ness, Secretary
Griff Wigley, Vice-Chair

2014 CROCT Board officers, L to R: Marty Larson, Griff Wigley, Curtis Ness, Carl Arnold
2014 CROCT Board officers, L to R: Marty Larson, Griff Wigley, Curtis Ness, Carl Arnold

Jeremy Bokman Sarah Jansen Scott Koehler Galen Murray
Other CROCT board members, L to R: Jeremy Bokman, Sarah Jansen, Scott Koehler, Galen Murray

Initial discussion with the Bridgewater Township Planning Commission: can we reclaim an abandoned gravel pit for mountain biking?

Bridgewater Township Planning Commission, March 21 Bridgewater Township Planning Commission, March 21
I made a brief presentation about CROCT to the Bridgewater Township Planning Commission last week. They seemed to like the idea of reclaiming an abandoned gravel pit for a mountain bike park but there was no action item. Here’s the background on the issue:

Back in February, I got an email from Northfielder Jeff Stremcha, a cyclist who’s on the Bridgewater Township Planning Commission:

Hi Griff – hope all is well with you. Fat-tiring the gravel is OK, but I’m starting to get ready for some other riding options! I wanted to drop a quick note to pass along a small bit of info based upon a brief exchange I had with Marty down at the bagel shop. He mentioned that you, he and a couple others are working on forming a mtb club in Nfld. Cool.

When Bridgewater Township was working with SMC on a renewal of their permits for the gravel mining operations at the Dundas Wash Plant, Terry Overn, a principle with SMC, mentioned that the Aggregate & Ready Mix Association of MN apparently has some interest, and potentially some level of funding, for doing a gravel mine reclamation project that they could use as a demonstration project with a goal of generating some community goodwill. Terry seemed to think that an off-road bicycle trail project might be a good candidate and mentioned it to me because there are some abandoned mining sites in Bridgewater Township that might provide a suitable location for such a project.

He suggested that someone should contact the Executive Director of the association, Fred Corrigan, at 952-707-1250 to see if there might be merit in further discussions.

I thought that maybe you, or someone in your group, might be interested in calling Fred. Since I had your email, I figured I’d give you the info. If someone does call, I’d suggest mentioning that Terry suggested it to us. I would presume that SMC is a significant member of the association.

I think that’s about all I know but I can try to clarify if you have questions. Take care – think spring!

I replied to Jeff:

Hey Jeff, good to hear from you… and that you’re getting the itch for something more than gravel!

Our mountain bike club got rolling last Sunday night: CROCT (Cannon River Offroad Cycling & Trails) and we have the beginnings of a website up at You probably know some of the people at that first meeting. We’ve had a few more join us since then.

As for gravel pit reclamation, Bruce Anderson and I had a conversation about it with Bridgewater Township Board supervisor Kathleen Doran-Norton about 10 days ago. How’s that for coincidence?

She not only knows of several abandoned mines but in some cases, knows the private land owners between them and thinks easements are possible that would allow an offroad bike trail between them.

So your timing couldn’t be better. We have a private web-based project planning service we’re using to organize the club and plan all our tasks, so I’ll copy/paste your email there so we can figure out who does what next. Rest assured, one of us will contact Fred Corrigan and maybe Terry Overn, too.

And if you’re interested in getting involved with the organizational stage of the club, let me know.

Of course, this could very likely involved the Rice County parks people since there could be a way of connecting a mtb trail to one or more of the abandoned gravel mines.

I’ll email Kathleen Doran-Norton about this today, with a CC to Bruce Anderson.

Shortly thereafter, I had a long phone chat with Fred Corrigan,  Exec Director of the Aggregate & Ready Mix Association of MN. He explained that Rice County collects an aggregate tax and 15% of those proceeds goes into a special fund for gravel pit reclamation. In 2011, this amounted to $4,500.  One to-do: to find out from the County what their current balance is and how to apply for it.  

The good news: the DNR and Le Sueur County tried to create a 20 acre mountain bike park with a pump track using these and other funds a couple years ago but the private property owner decided to sell.  

News article Sept 2010: Le Sueur County eyes reclaim of old pits

However, state statute has limited the use of reclamation funds for public land. Last year changes were made to the statute, enabling reclamation funds to be applied to abandoned pits on private property. Pettis said with the DNR’s help, reclaiming some of the pits in the county becomes more feasible.

So we might be able to get DNR involvement in a similar attempt in Bridgewater Twshp, especially if the abandoned pit is adjacent to the DNR’s Mill Towns Trail which will soon be extended between Faribault and Dundas along a rail line.  (I blogged the details about this here: )

(Some links: Southern Minnesota Construction (SMC) operates the Dundas Wash Plant; the MN DNR has a page on mine reclamation and a PDF handbook titled A Handbook for Reclaiming Sand and Gravel Pits in Minnesota.)

I later got this followup email from Fred Corrigan:

Good to talk to you today about the possibility of reclaiming currently unreclaimed aggregate pits into an mountain bike facility in Bridgewater Township in Rice County.

I have attached some information about the aggregate tax that is collected by some counties and the possible use of a portion of those funds for the purpose of reclaiming abandoned and unreclaimed aggregate pits.

I understand that you have a meeting of your group tonight and will get back to me after that meeting. I also understand that you will attempt to determine the ownership (public or private) of these potential properties and talk to the county about available funding for this kind of recreation project from the aggregate tax or other county funding. We also discussed the DNR’s interest in projects like this.

I look forward to continuing this discussion. I have copied officials of SMC who have been involved in these projects and are actively involved in the Aggregate & Ready Mix Association of MN (ARM).

Our presentation to the Northfield Park and Recreation Advisory Board: good vibes

CROCT presentation to March 20 Northfield Park and Recreation Advisory BoardMarty Larson and I made a brief presentation to the Northfield Park and Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) last night. They seemed to like our plan to create river bottoms mountain bike trail in Sechler Park, and seemed open to exploring the possibility of a trail in Roosevelt Park and Roosevelt Ridge Park. They also wondered if Odd Fellows Park, site of a new dog park, might be a park that could accommodate both a trail and a bike park/pump track.

We were asked send a formal letter of request to the Parks staff requesting a formal agreement between CROCT and the City, starting with permission to work on a trail in Sechler Park this spring. Staff will take that request to their weekly staff Development Review Committee (DRC) meeting and then put it into an upcoming City Council meeting packet, hopefully with a recommendation that the Council direct the PRAB and the staff to work with CROCT on implementation.

Here are links to some of the maps and resources we used in our presentation:

Sechler Park

Roosevelt Park

Hauberg Woods

Small pump tracks and skills parks

Northfield Parks Resources

Mankato Area Mountain Bikers (MAMB) fundraiser on tap for April 19

On tap, indeed.

MAMB Brewery Fundraiser

The Mankato Area Mountain Bikers (MAMB)  are hosting a fundraiser next month at the Mankato Brewery. “There will be music, beer, food, games, merch, and a raffle with great prizes from local businesses” says the flyer which I printed out and put up yesterday in a few key spots around Northfield. See their Facebook events page for more details. Continue reading Mankato Area Mountain Bikers (MAMB) fundraiser on tap for April 19