Tag Archives: Rice County

CROCT’s Caron Park mountain bike trail featured in the July Rice County Report

On page 5 of the July 2016 Rice County Report (“The Official Newsletter of Rice County”) is an article titled:

New Mountain Bike Trail at Caron Park

Rice County Newsletter with Caron Park CROCT article

For background, see our June blog post: Impact of CROCT’s mountain bike trails in Caron Park

Full text of the article here:

Continue reading CROCT’s Caron Park mountain bike trail featured in the July Rice County Report

Impact of CROCT’s mountain bike trails in Caron Park

CROCT board members and Rice County Parks & Facilities staff have recently heard from some citizens who are concerned about our mountain bike trail-building activities in Caron Park. While we are reaching out to these citizens to meet face-to-face, we thought it would help to also address some of the issues here on our blog and invite further comments and discussion from anyone who might be interested.

Rice County logo

Approval to build trails

On August 21, 2014. CROCT Board members Marty Larson, Jeremy Bokman and I met with Jake Rysavy, Rice County Parks & Facilities Director, at his office in Faribault. He expressed support for exploring the possibility of mountain bike trails at Caron Park between Northfield and Faribault and at McCullough Park near Montgomery.

We discussed the public’s support for mountain bike trails in the Rice County Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan 2012-2022:


According to the 2010, Rice County Parks and , 51.4% of survey respondents (or 505 individuals of 972) stated that trails and bikeways are most needed in Rice County. This correlates with the South Regional Recreational Survey completed by the University of Minnesota, which identified 51% of individuals stating they enjoyed walking/hiking and 26% showing they enjoyed biking (biking includes bicycling of all types, including mountain biking).

Trails serve multiple purposes. Trails function as transportation corridors, ecological corridors, opportunities to exercise and enjoy the outdoors, and opportunities to link people to Rice County destination points. Trails provide recreational, social, economic, and environmental benefits which contribute to a community’s overall quality of life.

Question 9 of that survey asked:

Which of the following recreational activities are you or someone in your household interested in participating in (select all that apply):

asdMountain biking received support from 18.7% (194 total) of the Rice County residents who responded. Other activities receiving significant support in the survey included Walking, Walking Dogs, Hiking, and Snowshoeing, all of which can be done on our multi-use trails at Caron Park.

Mr. Rysavy also indicated at this meeting that one side effect of having more people in the park for a multi-use mountain bike trail at Caron Park might be to discourage vandalism and other illegal activities that were too often occurring at the park.

With his permission, CROCT volunteers flagged a proposed route for a trail at Caron Park in the fall of 2014. Over the winter, he informed members of the Rice County Board’s subcommittee for parks about the proposed trail and they expressed their support to him.

On Feb 5, 2015, Marty, Jeremy, and I met with Rice County District 5 Commissioner Jeff Docken about the Caron Park trail and to explore the possibility of another trail in McCullough Park. Mr. Docken was supportive and had no objections.

L to R: Jeff Docken, Marty Larson, Jeremy Bokman

After Marty and Jake Rysavy walked the proposed trail in the spring, he gave CROCT his permission to construct the trail.

On June 8, 2015, over 30 volunteers showed up to construct Phase 1 of the trail (blog post link with more photos):

Volunteers constructed Phase 2 in November (blog post link with more photos):

Impact on nature

Caron Park is a gorgeous natural area but there’s nothing in the Rice County Parks plan that indicates it’s a wilderness park. Our mountain bike trail there is similar to the mountain biking and hiking trails at River Bend Nature Center which are designed to encourage and accommodate human activity in the midst of nature.

CROCT trail segment at Caron Park 4

(The Caron trails are in fact quite a bit narrower and more “natural” than those at RBNC.) CROCT is a chapter of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), whose Rules of the Trail guide our work. For instance, the Rules instruct riders to never scare animals or deliberately disturb wildlife and to yield the trail to other users such as pedestrians or dog-walkers. We regularly educate CROCT members about these rules.

Unlike the pre-existing trails at Caron, CROCT’s trail was designed to be sustainable and erosion resistant, constructed with a slightly crowned tread on flat terrain or an outsloped tread on sloping terrain. We regularly announce (via social media) closure of the trail when it’s too wet to walk or ride without damaging it.

CROCT trail segment at Caron Park 2

Lastly, while Rice County has not informed us about any protected plant species in the park, a hiking/biking trail can help to protect plants in the park by concentrating visitor ‘trampling’ on the narrow trail.

CROCT trail segment at Caron Park

Pink flags and tape

The pink flags and tape currently visible on the existing trails were placed during trail construction and will be removed by early June. They were left in place over the winter and early spring as a means to help users stay on the trail.

CROCT trail segment at Caron Park 5

The pink flags and tape in the wooded area adjacent to the glacial erratic boulder mark our proposed expansion of the trail in that area to prevent erosion and make that section of the trail more enjoyable to ride/hike than the current trail, which has existed for many years but runs straight up and down the hillside.


Prairie Creek is a DNR-designated protected stream that flows along the north edge of Caron Park, not through it. Here’s a screenshot from the Rice County Beacon map which has a checkbox to tick that shows DNR protected streams and rivers:

Beacon map of Caron Park and Prairie Creek

The MN DNR site has a list (PDF) of public waters for Rice County  (including ‘protected streams’) which lists several ‘unamed’ streams flowing into Prairie Creek.  We contacted Michelle Trager, Rice County GIS Coordinator, to inquire whether the streams in Caron Park are on that list. They aren’t. She wrote:

All of the streams on the protected waters list are in the protected streams layer on Beacon. The intermittent stream that flows through Caron Park is in the “DNR Intermittent Streams” layer under the Water Resources folder on Beacon. So, the unnamed stream that runs through Caron Park to Prairie Creek is not one of the unnamed streams on the protected streams list.

A pedestrian bridge crosses one of the streams in Caron Park (see photo above) and mountain bikers use it to cross over the stream.  In no other segment does the mountain bike trail bring riders close to either stream. And we educate our ridership on the importance of not riding across or in the streams to prevent erosion and sediment disruption.


We’re interested in getting feedback on our response to these concerns and discussing the issues online, phone or face-to-face. Feel free to attach a comment to this blog post or contact us.


CROCT adds a major extension to its MTB trail in Rice County’s Caron Park

Our trail worker volunteers, under the guidance of dirt boss Marty Larson, have added an extension (Loop 2) to our Caron Park MTB trail. It’s now open for riding but since it’s the season of the freeze-thaw cycle, be sure to check the the CROCT conditions Twitter feed @CROCTconditions before you ride.


CROCT Board members meet with Rice County Commissioner Jeff Docken

L to R: Rice County District 5 Commissioner Jeff Docken, Marty Larson, Jeremy Bokman

CROCT Board members Marty Larson, Jeremy Bokman and I had lunch yesterday at Tandem Bagels with Rice County District 5 Commissioner Jeff Docken.

It was a follow-up to the meeting that Marty, Jeremy and I had last August with Jake Rysavy, Rice County Parks & Facilities Director in which he expressed support for exploring the possibility of mountain bike trails at Caron Park and McCullough Park/Campground.

McCullough Park is in Jeff Docken’s district and he seemed intrigued about the possibility of having mountain bike trails on the large tract of park property across from the newly remodeled campground on Shields Lake.

Here are a few photos from Aug. 21 when Marty, Jeremy and I did a walk-through of McCullough. As you can see, the property has both a large sloping prairie and many ravines, making it ideal for mtb trails of all ability levels. And being adjacent to a trail head on a lake with a campground, picnic shelter, rest rooms, showers, boat access, etc, one could imagine McCullough becoming a destination mountain bike park someday.

We’ve expressed our preference for creating beginner-to-advanced mtb trails at Caron Park first. It’s situated half way between Faribault and Northfield, a more convenient (15-minute drive) for CROCT trail workers from both cities who would be investing hundreds of volunteer hours in constructing trails there. And after gaining a season’s worth of experience with trail-building at Caron, we would be in a better position to assess what we could accomplish at McCullough, a more demanding venue.

The next step will likely be for this to be an agenda item on an upcoming meeting of the Rice County Board’s Parks and Facilities committee before it goes to the full Board. The wheels of government don’t always move quickly but it’s possible that we could be authorized to dig at Caron Park this year.

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 https://croct.org/ 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: http://locallygrownnorthfield.org/post/29507 )

(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).