Copper Harbor Trails Club holds cleanup day

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Caleb Wendel blows leaves off the trail as he and Casey Krueger walk to trails near the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge to prepare the Copper Harbor trail network for the coming season. About 25 people came out for the Copper Harbor trails cleanup, held Saturday.

COPPER HARBOR — With the snow finally gone, cyclists from across the Midwest will be heading to Copper Harbor.

But first, a hardy group of volunteers has to get the trails clear.

The Copper Harbor Trails Club held its annual trail cleanup Saturday. About 25 people met at the Copper Harbor Park and fanned out to spots along the trail network, bringing chainsaws, leaf blowers and other tools.

“It’s a good turnout for today,” said Nathan Miller, executive director of the Copper Harbor Trails Club. “Our first work day we had to cancel, because it was a rainy, cold-for-us day as it often is in the Keweenaw. I think a lot of people saw the weather forecast being really nice and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to spend the day on the trails.'”

First, the crews have to chainsaw the trees that have blown down during winter storms. Once the trees and branches have been cleared, they blow leaves off the trails.

If there are extra volunteers, they will rake out the berms where the gravel has eroded.

“And always, we have to lop our trails, because the trees and the brush are trying to grow back and retake the landscape, so we have to keep those corridors open,” Miller said.

Miller said people are enthusiastic about pitching in because they know without the help of volunteers, the club wouldn’t be able to open the trails as soon as it does. The long Keweenaw winters means there’s only a couple of weeks between the final snows and Ride the Keweenaw.

The annual event, which includes guided rides, Enduro races and more, is held on Memorial Day weekend.

“Trails would be opening later into June, and that would be impacting local businesses as well, because we couldn’t open our trails,” Miller said. “So really, I think everyone sees the value of having our trails open.”

Caleb Wendel and Casey Krueger, both board members of the club, were clearing trails near the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge Saturday.

“You’ll notice more traffic once we say the trails are open,” said Wendel, who’s been participating in the cleanups since 2000. “Tourism will start happening up here.”

It’s also a way to make sure the trails are safe, Krueger said, “so that when they’re out here riding, there’s not a tree around the corner that’s down, or a bridge out.”

Once they finished the trails, the volunteers planned to celebrate by going on a ride.

“It’s great to see mountain bikes back in Copper Harbor,” Miller said. “It’s very quiet right now. And everybody is really excited to get out and ride once we get our trails cleared and ready to go.”

Miller reminded riders that the other trails across the Keweenaw need the same kind of help.

“If you didn’t make our workday here in Copper Harbor, reach out to the other groups and see if they need a helping hand, because all of us need the help of volunteers to maintain our trails,” he said.

For more information on the Copper Harbor Trails Club and a list of Ride the Keweenaw events, go to copperharbortrails.org.


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