By Gustave Axelson, Minnesota Conservation Volunteer magazine
Behind the scenes, the Parks & Trails Council-a little-known group of citizens-has been working to create a legacy of parks and trails for Minnesotans.
In the late 1980's and early 1990's a group of Cook County resort owners and others were concerned about the lack of a safe corridor for bicyclists, in-line skaters, joggers and walkers along the North Shore of Trunk Highway 61 along the North Shore. Originally the scope of the trail was confined to the Tofte-Schroeder-Lutsen area, but the concept quickly expanded to an 86-mile long trail from Two Harbors to Grand Marais.
Wild River State Park is a gem. Winter is a time to snowshoe, walk or ski on 35 miles of groomed trails, see trumpeter swans over wintering on the St. Croix, and enjoy the tranquil quiet of the ravine setting punctuated only by the occasional chirp of a downy woodpecker or the happy conversation of chickadees. Spring brings home the warblers, indigo buntings, oven birds, flycatchers, hawks, ducks and eagles. Woodland flowers including the bloodroots, trout lilies, cowslips, lupines, trilliums and anemones bloom in abundance. Summer brings the lushness of green, and the autumn the maples, aspens, and oaks ablaze in spectacular.
The Friends of William O'Brien State Park may be a new group, organized in 2000, but they have logged an impressive 2,186 hours of volunteered time. That is as many hours as a full time employee! The group at William O'Brien can and has tackled such things as: Wood Duck, Bat, Owl and Bluebird house monitoring and management. The group has also assisted with general parks and trails maintenance, controlled burns for prairie, firearms safety and snowmobile safety.