From the DNR
The vision for the Luce Line State Trail includes both natural and cultural resource preservation and enhancement, and recreation and transportation for trail users.
In some segments, the trail will provide for new uses to meet new demands. These proposals were developed in consultation with trail users at public meetings and workshops, meetings with community officials and trail user groups, and responses from the survey of adjoining landowners and Luce Line Trail Association (LLTA) members.
Bicycling, walking, running, dog walking, and nature observation will continue to be the primary summer uses on the Luce Line State Trail main treadway. Rehabilitation of the horse trail from Vicksburg Lane in Plymouth to Winsted Lake will continue.
In winter, the trail will continue to be open to snowmobiling from Cosmos to Stubbs Bay Road in Orono. The trail will continue to be open for non-motorized recreational uses (walking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing) east of Stubbs Bay Road in winter.
DNR will no longer set tracks for cross-country skiing. Due to very low use by horseback riders and growing demand from mountain bikers, DNR will monitor and evaluate a pilot program for joint use of the secondary treadway between Stubbs Bay Road and Vicksburg Lane by both mountain bikers and horseback riders.
The plan proposes that discharge of firearms for the purpose of lawful hunting be allowed west of Watertown, using fine shot (Number 4 or finer) only. Discharge of firearms is subject to all state and local restrictions, including restrictions on discharging firearms within 500 feet of a residence, building, or fenced pasture, or where prohibited by local ordinance. This plan proposes prohibiting discharge of firearms, within the trail right-of-way from Orono to Watertown for purposes of public safety.
West of Hutchinson, a parallel treadway may be added in the future for summer use by all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). Additional right-of-way may be needed to provide maximum separation of uses and route the ATV trail around sensitive natural resources, such as wetlands or prairie remnants.
If any additional land for closing severances or adding a parallel treadway is needed, land will be acquired only from willing sellers.
There are a number of uncertainties and unresolved issues that affect the long-term recommendations for the trail surface. Uncertainties and unresolved issues include:
1. The result of the experimental test with the cellulose resin binder added to limestone.
This product will be tested on a short segment of trail near the Hennepin County line. It may be able to eliminate or reduce dust, washboarding, or erosion of the limestone fine particle, while retaining a "natural" look. The surface will be evaluated for user satisfaction, cost, maintenance needs, durability, and effect of metal studs.
2. Possible future legal restrictions of metal-studded snowmobile tracks. Snowmobiles equipped with metal studs adversely impact paved surface quality, especially in low snow or high use conditions.
In 1997, the Minnesota Legislature passed a law prohibiting use of snowmobiles equipped with metal studs on paved state trails. Possible future restrictions of these devices statewide would make snowmobile use on asphalt trails compatible.
3. Technological changes in studded tracks. Future technological changes by manufacturers of metal studs may occur, so that damage to asphalt surfaces is not an issue.
4. Outcomes of the alternative surfacing study now underway. Four short 100-foot segments of different bituminous mixtures and an epoxy coating for asphalt are being tested during the winter of 1997-98 on the Luce Line.
5. Feasibility of constructing a parallel treadway to accommodate snowmobiles equipped with metal studded tracks. Environmental concerns, land acquisition constraints, or costs are unknowns at this time.
Given these uncertainties and unresolved issues, both short-term and long-term proposals are suggested.
If, in the future, damage to asphalt by snowmobiles with studded tracks is no longer an issue, an asphalt surface can be reconsidered on some segments.
From Cosmos to Cedar Mills, and Winsted to CSAH 127 (about two miles east of Watertown) are potential segments for asphalt. A limestone surface on the main treadway would be retained from Plymouth to CSAH 127.
A Luce Line Trail Advisory Committee should be formed to assist the DNR in making future development and management decisions. The advisory committee will play a role in evaluating the success of the initial steps of trail surfacing, and make recommendations for next steps.
Closing the severance in the trail in Winsted is a priority. Nine new small parking/rest areas will be added in communities along the trail.
These areas will have orientation maps, trail user education and information, picnic tables or benches, and plantings of native species.
Existing parking areas in several locations will be upgraded, with plantings, surfacing, and maps/information.
Seven small wayside rest areas will be added at scenic and historic sites, with small shelters, picnic tables, or benches, and interpretive information on natural and historic resources. New facilities and main treadway will be accessible to trail users with disabilities.
Community Involvement/Partnerships Continuation of the Adopt-a-Trail program sponsored by the LLTA will be encouraged. DNR will continue to work with the local trail user groups, communities, schools, and counties on enhancing the trail and trail support facilities, and encouraging local trail connections to significant destinations.
The ecological value of the trail corridor will be enhanced through more intensive resource management, acquisition of adjoining significant natural resource areas, or by offering technical assistance to adjoining landowners who wish to restore or preserve native vegetation.
The resources within the trail right-of-way will be managed to provide a healthy diversity of native woodland, wetland and prairie communities for wildlife habitat, and for the appreciation of trail users and adjoining landowners. Planting and management of native grasses, wildflowers, trees and shrubs will be accelerated.
A more detailed vegetation management plan will be developed, with plans for planting, prescribed burning, or control of undesirable exotic species, such as buckthorn.
Trail links to community and county trail systems, other long distance trails, parks and natural areas, schools, and residential and commercial areas, are encouraged. Improving access to the trail and linking to significant destinations for trail users will enhance use of the trail. Pedestrian access to Wood-Rill (the new DNR Scientific and Natural Area adjacent to the Luce Line in Orono) will be emphasized with interpretive signs.
Routine maintenance of state trails to provide a quality recreation experience has historically been chronically underfunded.
As new miles of trail are developed, new uses added, and numbers of users increase, maintenance needs will also increase. Funding for adequate maintenance should be secured.
The DNR is exploring strategies to increase the levels of compliance with trail rules, including increased education and information efforts, and higher levels of enforcement presence on the Luce Line State Trail.