Meet the Friends of Munger South

Dave Auchter saw a problem that he couldn’t afford to ignore. A longtime user of the historic Willard Munger State Trail, he had had front-row seats to the slow degradation of the trail’s asphalt surface. A popular thoroughfare for hikers and bikers, the trail had started to show the strain, and Dave was getting frustrated.

“It wasn’t a major incident or anything,” he says. “We all just got tired of getting broken spokes from the bad trail.”

After years of advocating to the DNR and local legislators on his own, Dave spoke to some of his friends and discovered that they had been doing the same thing. Many of them had encountered such serious trail degradation that they had been forced to ride on the nearby highway, which, while easier on their bikes, was also much more dangerous than the trail.

The friends decided that something had to be done, and, with encouragement from the DNR trail manager, the Friends of Munger South were born. The membership is currently mainly confined to trail users in and around the group’s base of operations in Finlayson, where Dave is currently the mayor. The group meets in the community center to discuss their plans for stewardship of the trail.

The DNR showed up at the group’s second meeting to share a proposal for funding for improvement to the most damaged section of the trail, a show of support that influenced the next steps that the Friends took in their stewardship journey. The group is currently engaging with their legislators regarding the proposed restoration of a 13-mile stretch of the trail between Hinckley and Finlayson. They have hope that their efforts will ultimately lead to a revitalization of this historic trail.

The Friends are also working on ideas for what happens after that. Dave suggested that work events – bringing volunteers out to maintain the trail – and fun rides might be the first step. He sees getting outdoors as a way to bridge ideological divides and unite communities.

“When you’re together in the outdoors,” he says, “you already have something in common, right?”


Photo Credit: Dave Auchter