|Paving the Trail
Paul Bunyan took a giant step during the summer of 1995. The first 48 miles of the 112-mile Paul Bunyan Trail was paved with
asphalt and opened to hikers, bikers, inline skaters, and snowmobilers.
The paved section extends from Brainerd/Baxter to
Hackensack. The unfinished section reaches north to Lake Bemidji State Park, so that the
completed trail will ultimately link 16 communities.
The Paul Bunyan Trail showcases some of the areas
pine forests, popular lakes, wildflowers and wildlife. It passes along the shoreline of 21
lakes, through many scenic wetlands, and over bridges crossing four rivers and many
The trail follows a railroad line built in 1893 and
abandoned in 1983. The quest to create this recreational trail began shortly after the
line was abandoned. Five years later, enough public support had been gathered to bring
about legislative authorization. Six more years of effort as a citizen lobbyist were
necessary before all aspects of the project were completed and the trail was ready for
Monies were appropriated in stages for the various steps
of construction: land appraisal, preliminary engineering, and initial acquisition. Major
land acquisition funds were obtained in 1990 and construction funds for bridges and paving
When bids were opened, Anderson
Brothers was substantially under competing bidders and awarded the contract.
Trail supporters were pleased, since the company is known as a great corporate community
citizen. Construction began in June of 1995 and was completed on October 7, 1995, two
weeks ahead of schedule.
Paving the trail was a more complicated project than most
people realize. DNR research shows that surface preparation is the key to providing
maximum trail life, so Anderson Brothers crews dug up and scarified the entire 48
mile, 14-foot wide trail, which had been hardened by 100 years of heavy pounding. After it
was reshaped and compacted, ninety-six thousand tons of Class 5 was added and compacted.
The trail was then paved with a 10-foot wide blacktop surface (12 miles of the trail are 8
feet wide due to landscape constraints). The finished thickness is two and a half inches.
To complete the job, two feet of class 5 were added to the shoulders.
Paving of the approximately 12 miles, from
Bemidji south to Guthrie, was completed in the Spring of 2009. Paving
continued in the Spring of 2010 on the stretch of the trail from Guthrie
south to Walker. Upon completion of this segment of the trail in 2010,
the Paul Bunyan Trail now yields a continuously paved trail from
Brainerd/Baxter north to Bemidji State Park!
The only remaining undeveloped sections
of the trail that are included in future paving projects include: paving
the trail access South of Brainerd/Baxter to the Crow Wing State Park,
which is scheduled for completion in 2013; the addition of a bridge
over Bemidji Avenue in Bemidji, where the trail crosses over 6 lanes of
traffic; and a one-half mile segment along Clausen Ave. in Bemidji,
which may be completed late in 2012 or in 2013. The new bridge over
Bemidji Ave. will be constructed starting in the Spring of 2012, with an
anticipated completion date of August 2012.
The Paul Bunyan Trail, at the current length of
112 paved miles,
represents the longest paved trail project in one contract not only in the state, but also
in the nation.
The trail intersects at Walker with
the 47-mile Heartland State Trail. With this connection and other planned extensions, the
Paul Bunyan Trail will be part of the largest trail system in the nation. Trail users have
already proclaimed that the quality construction of the Paul Bunyan Trail has set a new
benchmark for future trails.