Saturday, June 25, 2005

Banadad Ski Trail Recieve Trail Improvement Grant

Project Description:

The USFS's Trail Inventory lists the Banadad as a Skiing and Hiking Trail. The Trail is an 18 mile linear trail of which 15 miles are located within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). Ted Young, of Boundary Country Trekking, is the trail's Maintenance Supervisor. Within the BWCAW all maintenance work must be done with hand tools and access for maintenance is by foot i.e., walking. The grooming of the Trail by snowmobile is authorized by the 1978 BWCA Act and provided by Boundary Country Trekking under agreement with the Gunflint Ranger District, USFS.

The annual cost of maintaining and grooming the Banadad for skiing ranges from $10,000 to $12,000. A portion of this cost is the Minnesota DNR's calculation on the value of the in-kind contribution of volunteer labor.

This cost is financed by: (1) a $6000 grant from the Minnesota DNR's Ski Pass Grant-in-Aid (GIA) program administered by Cook Country. This GIA funds are provided to the Banadad in the name of the Gunflint Recreational Trails. (2) A $1000 "Trail Partners Grant" provided by the Gunflint Ranger District USFS to Boundary Country Trekking. (3) The balance is contributed by volunteer labor. Each year some 400-500 person hours of volunteer labor, including Boundary Country Trekking's staff, goes into clearing the summer's accumulation of down trees and brush. Residents of Cook County provide over half of this volunteer effort.
Yet even with these efforts the remote interior sections of the Banadad have received little maintenance attention since the trail was opened in 1983. Just imagine how much work can be accomplished if you have to walk in five miles first before you even start working and then you have to walk out when you finish.

Currently there are approximately eight remote interior miles where the brush and conifers are threatening to choke off the trail. This is not a job that we have been able or will be able to successfully accomplish with our volunteer labor. If this brush and conifers are not cut back within the next few years the Trail will become impassable and will have to be closed.

Proposed Project:
Our proposal to deal with the brush and conifers choking off the Trail's remote interior is to hire a trail crew(s) to get out there and get it cut back. This crew would work out of base camps, setup by the crew, near the portion of the trail they were working on. The crew would spend several nights at each camp. Access to these base camps would be either by canoe or foot depending upon the most accessible route into each camp. The trail crew will also use the E. J. Croft Yurt as a base camp to access a portion of the project area.
It is our intent to hire and supervise a three to four person trail crew(s) including one trail boss. We anticipate that area residents experienced in trail clearing and camping would primarily be hired. Boundary Country Trekking will provide camping equipment, the yurt, and canoes. The Gunflint Ranger District USFS will provide all hand tools.

Based upon our experience volunteer crews working on the most accessible sections of the trail, with hand tools and not counting their travel time, require 75-100 hours to clear one mile. The Trail's remote interior (the project area) is considerably more overgrown than the more accessible portions of the Trail. Therefore we estimate that up to 160 hours of labor/mile will be required to clear the Trail within the project area.

Project Area
The project area consist of eight remote interior miles. Starting at the Logging Camp, which is six miles west of the eastern trailhead, to the intersection of the trail with the section line between sections 3 and 4 of R3W T64 near the large beaver dam approximately four miles in from the west end trailhead. (See map)
Project Standards

Widen the eight interior miles of the Banadad Ski Trail within the project area as follows:
1. Where brush is the dominant vegetation- cut/clear brush along trail right of way to minimum width of eight feet (8') and remove all overhanging brush.
2. Where conifers are the dominant vegetation- cut brush and conifers to create a minimum of six 6) foot trail right of way. Thin conifers on sides of right of way to promote growth of remaining conifers and trim all over hanging conifers branches up to a minimum of ten (10') high.
3. Throughout project area trim all over-hanging conifer branches up to ten feet and remove overhanging brush.
Projected Projects Life Expectancy:
Based upon past experience, we anticipate that within the project area when the "project standards" are achieved only minimal annual maintenance will be required for the next ten to fifteen years.

Financing the Project:
Projected total cost of this project to clear eight miles of the Banadad is $17,670.
If the project is approved it would be implemented over the next two years beginning in the summer of 2005 (FY 2005 and FY 2006).
We are requesting an $8000 grant from the Cook Country Recreation Fund for the expressed purpose of financing the clearing of 4 interior miles of the Banadad Ski Trail. In addition we are pledging the following grant-matching contributions which would be used to clear an additional 4 interior miles of the trail and provide the equipment needed to accomplish the project:
Boundary Country Trekking (BCT) Pledges to Contribution-
$4,000 cash ($2,000/year for 2 years) which would go towards the wages and outfitting of the trail crew.
2. $3,840 worth of In-kind labor over the next two years.
$1630 in kind contribution of camp gear and canoes from BCT
$200 in kind contribution of hand tools from USFS
The Gunflint Ranger District's "Trail Partners" grant to Boundary Country Trekking of $1000 in 2005 and an anticipated $1000 grant in 2006 will be used as a portion of cash match. The District has also pledged a USFS trail crew to clear one interior mile in 2005 and another mile the next year. However, because of the tenuous nature of USFS funding Boundary Country Trekking pledges to make up for any of the pledged USFS contribution not provided.
NOTE: During this project Boundary Country Trekking will continue to maintain, primarily with volunteer trail crews, the remaining ten, more accessible, miles of the Banadad. This regular maintenance will require 500-600 person hours of hand labor. None of the requested and/or pledged project funds or in kind labor will be used for maintaining the more accessible portions of the trail.

Trail Usage and Community Involvement. During the winter the Trail is used exclusively by cross-country skiers. While a completely accurate count of skier days is not known, our best estimate is that this year there was between 700-900 skier days. This estimate is based on our tabulation of the BWCA day permits we turned in to the USFS which in 2005 showed 544 skier days. The permits, we turned in were from only two of the trail's three permit boxes. The other box is manned by the USFS. Add to this the fact that at least 30% of the skiers (many of which are locals) traveling on the Banadad never bother to fill out a "Day Permit."
Of the permits we turned in, 116 of the 544 (20%) skier days were from Cook Country (local).
As previously mentioned Cook Country residents currently provide over half of the volunteer labor required to get the Trail open for skiing each year. Last fall 23 of the 42 volunteers that worked on the Trail were from Cook County.
During the spring-summer the Trail is used by day hikers who start at either end of the trail and hike in and out a few miles. Many of these hikers are property owners living near the Trail. During fall the Trail is used primarily by bird, moose and deer hunters, again most of whom, particularly the bird hunters, are local property owners. No accurate record of this usage is available.

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