ELY- The North Country National Scenic Trail is coming to Ely and you can help make it happen. Area hiking enthusiasts have formed a new local chapter of the North Country Trail Association and held …
ELY- The North Country National Scenic Trail is coming to Ely and you can help make it happen. Area hiking enthusiasts have formed a new local chapter of the North Country Trail Association and held their first official meeting earlier this week at the Grand Ely Lodge. The new Ely chapter was officially recognized by the North Country Trail Association on Sept. 13.
The North Country National Scenic Trail is one of the eleven federally designated trails in the national scenic trail system and runs 4,800-miles from Vermont to North Dakota.
The Minnesota portion of the trail has recently been rerouted to go through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Ely. In fact, Ely’s Sheridan Street is now part of the trail, so don’t be surprised if the trail’s official blue blazes start showing up in and out of town, and maybe even down Sheridan Street itself.
The local trail enthusiasts who have been working to set up the local chapter have been making the rounds of local gatherings to spread the word. Organizers recently spoke to a packed house at the Sept. 12 Tuesday Group meeting at the Grand Ely Lodge. Jeff Pike explained what the national scenic trail system is and how it’s maintained, using both local volunteers and personnel from the National Park Service, which provides oversight and management of the trail system.
“And then they work with local agencies, state agencies, and … (groups like) the North Country Trail Association, which is a nonprofit.” He said local chapters and their volunteers provide the boots on the ground, to make the whole thing happen. Those who didn’t make this week’s meeting but are interested in being part of the effort should contact Ozzie Reif at 218-235-3233.
The main purpose of the local trail chapter will be to blaze, create, and maintain the portions of the North Country Trail in the greater-Ely area. Much of this trail will be new and the local chapter will be responsible for picking its route.
“We have a 15-mile stretch from Kawishiwi Falls to Bear Head Lake State Park,” said Ozzie Reif, another speaker at the Sept. 12 Tuesday Group meeting. Reif outlined the efforts of neighboring local trail chapters, especially immediately east of Ely, where the Kekekabic Chapter is working on the trail near Fernberg Rd.
The trail in Minnesota encompasses several already-established trails such as the Superior Hiking Trail, the Kekekabic Trail, and the Border Route Trail.
Reif also outlined the new chapter’s ambitions: “We want Ely to become a trail town, officially.” A trail town designation means that a community is on the path of the trail, has the trail signage in and out of town, is ready to provide hiker services, and has the active cooperation of the local community government.
“Becoming a trail town does take the (city) council and the Parks and Rec board wanting it to happen … So that’s one of the next steps coming up is doing that sort of formal relationship building with (Ely),” Reif added. Other Minnesota communities that already have the trail town designation include Fergus Falls, Marshall, and Grand Marais.
For more information on the Ely chapter, check out their Facebook page, at “NCTA Ely Northwoods Chapter.” Membership in the Ely Northwoods chapter is $40. The group is actively recruiting.
“We need more members,” Reif explained. “We need more volunteers. You can volunteer without being a member if you don’t want to pay the yearly $40 annual membership fee, but you get some cool stickers if you do.”