Support the Timberjay by making a donation.

Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Breitung Board open to new hiking trail route to McKinley Park

Denies request to post existing portion of trail as non-motorized

Jodi Summit
Posted 6/28/24

SOUDAN- The Breitung Town Board, during their June 20 meeting, expressed support for a hiking trail connecting McKinley Park Campground to the Pine Ridges trail system, but they weren’t willing …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Breitung Board open to new hiking trail route to McKinley Park

Denies request to post existing portion of trail as non-motorized


SOUDAN- The Breitung Town Board, during their June 20 meeting, expressed support for a hiking trail connecting McKinley Park Campground to the Pine Ridges trail system, but they weren’t willing to designate an existing trail as non-motorized for that purpose.
This decision follows the request at the April meeting by Wagoner Trails Club member Aaron Kania, which the board tabled. At the May meeting, several ATV users attended to ask that the request be denied citing the historic use of the trails in the area by ATVs.
Kania attended the June meeting and talked about the joint Tower-Breitung master trail plan, which envisioned the creation of more connections between the two communities. He told the board the trail map they were presenting had been developed in conjunction with the Tower Forestry Board, the trail club, and the Prospector Loop ATV Club. He said there are currently two trails that connect to McKinley, and that one could remain motorized with the other designated as non-motorized, creating a 5K route connecting Tower and Breitung by an unpaved hiking trail.
“I don’t really think anyone is opposed to a hiking trail,” said Soudan resident Craig Lenci.
In addition, Lenci said many locals felt the area was the “last little place outside of the state park” for hunting and ATV riding. “A lot of people have kept up the ATV trails around here,” he said, while also noting the area was a popular hiking spot, and the two uses had been co-existing. Lenci said it would be “awesome” to be able to hike from the Soudan Store to the Pine Ridges trail.
Brian Zak, of Soudan, expressed concern about how it would affect people who hunt in that area. He said that DNR rules prevent hunters from shooting from or over a designated trail. “Don’t take away any more stuff for people who use that land,” he said.
But after the meeting, a preliminary review of state hunting rules showed that such rules only apply to actual roads, not recreational-use trails.
Breitung Supervisor Matt Tuchel noted that the request was for a very small section of trail, but even so, said the feedback from Breitung residents was against the request.
“I would be in favor of something new put in by the trail group,” he said. “The township has helped the Prospectors with gravel. I think we would help with a hiking trail too.”
“I love the idea of the 5K route,” he added.
Barb Soderberg, who grew up in Tower but now lives in Eagles Nest, talked about the time she spent hiking in that area with her father, the late DNR forester Howard Wagoner. “This was before ATVs were around,” she said.
There was a general consensus that ATV use in the area was increasing, and often was not compatible with hikers on the trail.
“Don’t shut out the runners, walkers, dog walkers, and birdwatchers,” Soderberg said. “ATV trails are almost everywhere now.” Soderberg also talked about the damage done to the Tower Ski Trail section that is now part of the Prospector Trail system.
Another resident, who is an off-road motorcycle enthusiast, said this area is one of the few remaining places where off-road motorcycles are permitted. He said off-road bikers want relatively rough trails to ride and aren’t permitted on the Prospectors Trail.
“We had one challenging trail left that winds around Pine Ridges,” he said. “They said it was abandoned and unused, but we had left brush and logs to make it difficult to ride on.” That area is now designated as a non-motorized portion of the Pine Ridges trail system.
Breitung Chairman Tim Tomsich said the creation of the Lake Vermilion State Park was viewed by many locals as a takeaway of the U.S. Steel lands, since many in the community had formerly used that land with little regulation by, or permission from U. S. Steel.
Supervisor Erin Peitso said she favored finding an alternative route for the hiking trail as she was opposed to terminating motorized use on either of the two existing trails.
“If they could find a way to add in a hiking trail that would be great,” she said.
A motion to leave the trail system as is passed unanimously.
Kania said they would start scouting a possible new route for a hiking trail to connect to the campground, and come to the board for permission to build it.

Hoodoo Mckinley paved loop trail
The township should hear by the end of this month if their grant request to the Blandin Foundation for planning and environmental review for completing the “loop” for the Breitung and Tower paved trails. The next step would be applying for funds for the actual construction. A little over a mile of this loop remains undeveloped but would most likely need to be constructed adjacent to the county road between McKinley Park and Hoodoo Point.

Stuntz Bay road closure
The reconstruction of the Stuntz Bay Road is going to create headaches for lake-access residents for about a week at some point in August, when the road from the community hall to the state park rear entrance will need to be closed. The rest of the construction will be done with one lane of traffic always open. The state park will give permission for lake-access residents to access Stuntz Bay landing through the park, but they will need to request permission from park manager Jim Essig, and access will only be during regular park hours.
The board discussed the best way to inform Stuntz Bay users and will try to get a better idea of the exact dates of construction from the contractors. Information will be mailed to Stuntz Bay users, as well as posted at the landing, and on the township’s website and Facebook page.

Police report
Chief Dan Reing reported on a very busy May. The department focused on seatbelt and speeding enforcement. They are also seeing an increase in ATV traffic and have been responding to some issues relating to ATV use. They are also working with Breitung to identify blight and send notices out to property owners. Reing said they understand that mowing may be difficult due to the wet soils. The department had two arrests in May, an adult male arrested for disorderly conduct, and a juvenile male arrested on a felony warrant. They also issued 12 citations for driving after suspension, driving after revocation, five speeding citations including one for driving 92 in a 60 mph zone, and two for driving over 80 mph in a 60 zone. Four citations were issued for no seat belts.

Other business
In other business, the town board:
• Heard from maintenance supervisor Tom Gorsma about work being done to repair damage from the flooding. Gorsma will work with township engineer John Jamnick to document damage and costs of repairs, which hopefully will be reimbursed by state and federal emergency funding. Jamnick said they may need to look at upgrading infrastructure that was damaged, to help prevent similar damage from future storms.
• Set the continuation of the annual meeting (to set the levy) for Thursday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m., following the regular board meeting.
• Discussed a proposed new ordinance on wastewater. The board is forwarding the ordinance to the water commission to make some changes.
• Heard a complaint about excessive speed from vehicles and ATVs on Jasper St.
• Heard an update on work to expand the wastewater ponds. Soil testing will be underway soon to see if there is a suitable site. Plant manager Matt Tuchel and Tower Council Member Josh Zika toured two rapid infiltration treatment plants in other parts of the state. Tuchel said both were happy with the systems, which are a lower-cost treatment option compared to adding an additional treatment pond.
• Accepted a donation from Tower-Soudan Agency for the community picnic, as well as formally accepting donations from Friends of Bear Hunter Anderson, and Tower-Soudan Little League, to purchase two memorial benches and trees.