Sept. 25, 2006
Enjoy the Luce Line Trail
By Jenni Sebora
People, such as Dick Schmidt, from the Department of Natural Resources, had a vision for the Luce Line when it was abandoned as a railroad in 1972.
Those visions were realized when the Luce Line Trail was established four years later as a multi-use recreational trail from Plymouth to Cosmos.
Originally built as the Electric Short Line Railway from downtown Minneapolis to west central Minnesota by Colonel William Luce, the Luce Line was formally abandoned in the early 1970s because of competition from other modes of transport.
Legislation authorizing the Luce Line as a state trail was actually passed by the MN legislature in 1973. In 1975, the DNR acquired a major portion of the trail through federal and state funding.
And it was the snowmobile community, among other clubs and entities, that was very instrumental in helping make this happen.
“The snowmobile community was instrumental in getting the Luce Line trail through legislation,” Schmidt said.
Other clubs and organizations, such as hiking clubs, horse clubs, environmental clubs, and suburban Hennepin County towns also promoted and supported the acquisition of the line for trail use.
Multiple use the trail is. Recreation on the trail includes not only walking, jogging, and hiking, but biking, skiing, horseback riding, and snowmobiling.
In fact, Schmidt noted that the Luce Line Trail was the very first in the country to be converted from rail to a multiple use path versus just a walking path.
From its origination, the Luce Line has provided a means of both transportation and recreation. Completed as far west as Stubb’s Bay Road June 2, 1914, President W.L. Luce initially operated the Electric Short Line Railway to transport vacationers between Minneapolis and popular resorts such as Lake Minnetonka and Lake Independence, www.frontiernet.net/~gbuehl noted.
By 1927, the route extended to Gluek and the line began to specialize more in commodities, such as grain and lumber. As mentioned, other modes of transport took over, and the railroad was abandoned.
The potential exists though that the Luce Line could be converted back to its original state, a rail corridor, Schmidt noted.
“There is the potential for it (Luce Line) to be converted to a rail corridor again,” Schmidt said.
But today, vacationers and recreationists can continue to travel the Luce Line to points west, along the way, to get a feel of the railroad past. Remnants of the railroad, such as whistle signs and foundations of coal distribution buildings, still exist.
In the early days, visions for the Luce Line Trail also included a monorail or a light rail system alongside the trail, and there are wishes that that vision would have come to fruition, Schmidt noted.
All in all, the present Luce Line Trail is approximately 1,000 acres, stretching 63 miles from Plymouth to Cosmos.
From Plymouth to Winsted, the surface is limestone with a parallel path for horseback riding. Snowmobiles are allowed on the trail west of Stubb’s Bay Road, as some of the trail is non-motorized because of heavier housing and urbanization, Schmidt explained.
From Winsted to Cosmos, the trail is composed of a natural surface. The trail is a preserved strip of countryside with many varieties of plants and animals.
In the east, the woodland area once known as the “Big Woods,” sugar maple and basswood stand, with many ground cover plants and prairie plants still existing.
Wildlife inhabitants range from fox, deer, and mink to owls, eagles, and pheasant. Many neighboring lakes support ducks and geese.
Schmidt noted that in some areas, the trail is the only property where a bird can hide.
As trail user and Plymouth resident, Grace McGarvie described the trail on the website, www.herald-journal.com/luceline, after she and her husband biked the trail in segments from Plymouth to Winsted, “It was a wonderful break exercise and nature, solitude and beauty. I highly recommend the experience.”
Luce Line Trail Association
As interest maintained to continue to repair and improve the trail, the Luce Line Trail Association was formed in 1994.
Its members work with the DNR to lobby the state legislature for funds to repair and improve the trail. The primary goal of the association is to make the Luce Line Trail suitable for its users, in a safe and friendly manner.
The association facilitated the creation of a historical rest area on the trail in memory of 17-year-old Andy Gorshe, who died on his way to school at Watertown High School. A majority of the work on the site has been organized and performed by Andy’s immediate family.
The Adopt-a-Trail program is a combined effort between the Luce Line Trail Association and volunteers, with cooperation from the DNR.
Families, organizations, such as Scouts; individuals, businesses, and landowners are and can be responsible for approximately one mile of trail.
These trail volunteers help keep the trail free of unsightly litter, monitor conditions, and perform routine maintenance.
Of the 64 miles of trail, 43 have been adopted. Twenty-one miles remain open for the Adopt-a-Trail program, coordinator George Buehl noted.
For more about the trail, see www.luceline.com