April 28, 2022
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Digging in at three mountain bike trails

Minnesota has excellent mountain biking destinations (see the spring edition of Minnesota Trails Magazine for a list of 90 mountain biking trails). Yet, relatively little information exists on who is using them and why. Research conducted last summer is shedding light on this situation through the use of detailed trail counts and visitor intercept surveys from three Minnesota destinations.

The three systems studied were Cook County Mountain Bike Trails, Duluth Traverse, and Detroit Mountain Recreation Area. Each has distinctly different terrain, geographic location, and diversity of visitor profiles.

Work began around Memorial Day 2021, when Andrew Oftedal, research and policy manager at Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota (P&TC), installed automated trail counters at key locations. These counters remained in place through Labor Day, plus additional counters were installed at other areas for shorter durations.

Meanwhile, throughout the summer, staff were deployed to key trailheads where they asked trail users to answer a 32-question survey. The questions delved into the demographics and motivations of trail users. The results are detailed in three separate 50-plus-page reports.

The research project was commissioned by the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission, an organization created by the Minnesota Legislature in 2013 to undertake system planning for parks and trails of regional significance beyond the Twin Cities metro region. The commission is also tasked with providing recommendations to the legislature for some of the grants funded by the Clean Water, Land & Legacy Amendment Funds. This study is intended to aid those decisions.

P&TC regularly conducts research that complements the work of our public partners. If you or your local parks department are looking for data on user trends or trail conditions and want to know how P&TC can help, please email Andrew Oftedal at aoftedal@parksandtrails.org.

View the full reports