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Superior Hiking Trail Association Completes Gooseberry Gap Reroute

After seven years and hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Superior Hiking Trail Association has officially closed the Gooseberry Gap, reconnecting the Superior Hiking Trail between Gooseberry Falls State Park and Blueberry Hill Road.

In 2015, a 2.5-mile portion of the Superior Hiking Trail was temporarily detoured onto a road on Blueberry Hill Road and the paved Gitchi-Gami State Trail along Highway 61 after an easement was revoked by a private landowner. On Sept. 16, the new 4.7-mile route was re-opened, which restored the SHT to a natural-surface footpath through the woods.

The Gooseberry Reroute Project is a cautionary tale and a reminder that the actions of each user of the SHT reflect on the entire trail community. SHTA went through a rigorous permitting process with Lake County to obtain the Conditional Use Permit required to construct the new alignment.

The Association has taken the concerns of the landowners and managers seriously and are committed to increased education on responsible use of the trail and monitoring the new route. In addition to these efforts, the SHTA asks that all trail users follow the regulations and guidelines of the trail, be respectful to other people – both trail users and land managers and owners – and practice Leave No Trace to minimize impact. Every guideline the SHTA asks users to follow is designed to protect the trail’s access to the land it crosses.

The Gooseberry Reroute was completed after seven years with funding from the Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB), the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), and SHTA donors and members. Lake County staff and Commission members and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources provided support assessing and approving the new route.

The seven-year duration of the project was determined by the challenge of raising funds for the reroute and identifying the best possible Superior Hiking Trail Association Completes Gooseberry Gap Reroute trail alignment that minimizes environmental impacts, appeals to trail users, and utilizes public lands for public recreation. This was the most comprehensive alignment study completed on behalf of the SHTA to date.

“This is a very proud moment for the Superior Hiking Trail Association. As a small nonprofit, managing and maintaining a 300-mile footpath over four counties is an ambitious undertaking. Losing access to just one parcel of land can really throw off the entire alignment of the Trail and dramatically change the scenic experience people have come to expect on the SHT. Today we celebrate as a community – volunteers, donors, and users. We were able to reconnect a critical missing link on our Trail alignment and reaffirm our nonprofit’s mission to connect people to nature via footpath!” said SHTA Executive Director Lisa Luokkala.

The Superior Hiking Trail is an incredible community asset that has connected hundreds of thousands of people to the North Shore. The trail bolsters the quality of life for locals and plays a vital role in the regional recreational tourism economy by attracting thousands of visitors annually.

Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation is a state economic development agency that invests in projects that foster vibrant growth and economic prosperity in northeastern Minnesota. Jim Plummer, the Economic Development Coordinator with IRRRB, said the agency invested in the Gooseberry Reroute for several reasons. The trail “makes host and nearby communities more livable and vibrant, attracts tourists and spending, and provides a healthy, fun outdoor activity for locals and visitors,” Plummer said.

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