TOWER—A small contingent of volunteers have begun work on the toughest portion of a roughly mile-and-a-half-long loop trail through a primarily upland forest dominated by old white cedar. …
TOWER—A small contingent of volunteers have begun work on the toughest portion of a roughly mile-and-a-half-long loop trail through a primarily upland forest dominated by old white cedar. It’s like a forest primeval, within the city limits of Tower, cut off over the years by a protective moat of wetlands that have made access to the site difficult.
But thanks to funding from the North St. Louis County Trails Task Force, itself funded by the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation, and Lake Country Power’s Operation Round-Up, volunteers are building a roughly 500-foot boardwalk that will traverse the moat and give easy access to the upland portions of what is being called the Ancient Cedar Forest Trail.
It’s a project that’s been in the “talking about” stage for several years, but the project is finally a go thanks to the grant funds and the volunteer effort. “It’s pretty satisfying to see the work finally underway,” said Jodi Summit, president of Friends of the Vermilion Country School, one of three partners on the project. “We’re really thankful to our funders for helping to make it possible.” The Wagoner Trails Club and the Tower Economic Development Authority are the other two partners in the effort. The construction of the boardwalk is the biggest expense for the project, given the cost of lumber and the large torx screws used to assemble it all. In addition to the boardwalk, the grant dollars will fund both directional and interpretive signage beginning along the Mesabi Trail, near the historic train depot.
Volunteers are building the boardwalk from rough-sawn tamarack, which is both very strong and rot resistant. The rough-sawn lumber, cut custom for the project at East Dhu Sawmill in Iron, will also provide better footing when the wood is wet. Smooth, treated lumber is notorious for becoming slimy and slippery in wet conditions.
Once out of the wetlands, the cost of construction will be minimal, since it will mostly be limited to clearing of deadfall along the route. The trail tread will be kept natural, in keeping with the wilderness-like character of the trail route, although a small amount of aggregate may be added in rough or rocky portions of the trail to improve footing.
The volunteers hope to have the boardwalk completed by the end of July. Signage will be added after that and should be up before fall. The trailhead will be located 300 feet south of the Mesabi Trail, just off the Iron Ore snowmobile trail.