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Scores of bike riders take to signature trail


June 21, 2019

A light mist began to fall at 11 a.m., just as riders began to roll their bicycles onto the Munger Trail from the Northern Pacific Junction shelter in Carlton. The occasion was the Carlton County Community Bike Ride on June 9.

Organizers were concerned that the cool, wet weather might dampen enthusiasm for the second annual event. With multiple access points to the trail, it would be difficult to know right away how much impact the weather might be having on the turnout.

At about the same time that bike riders began to leave Carlton, riders in Moose Lake, Barnum, and Mahtowa also set out on the trail, some bicycling as far as Moose Lake to Carlton and back, others just a short distance.

Mandi Rosebrock, local office manager for the Carlton County Extension Office and one of the event organizers in Carlton, was busy pulling last-minute event details together.

“Here in Carlton the Magnolia Café is doing their food truck,” she said. “The Streetcar Kitchen and Pub donated root beer and the Magnolia donated ice cream, so we are also doing free root beer floats here at the Carlton rest area.”

“We also have music here this morning with Kraig James from 11 to 12,” Rosebrock said.

One purpose of the ride was to bring Carlton County communities and people together around the often-overlooked resource of the Munger Trail, as well as get people out for some fresh air and exercise and meet their neighbors.

“We felt like there was a need for more positive promotion of Carlton County’s great quality of life,” Rosebrock said. “People come here from outside our county to ride this trail. They come because it’s a hidden gem.”

As if on cue, a rider came up the trail and stopped.

Referring to himself only as “Milton,” he told a bit of his story to the volunteers gathered to greet his arrival. He had started his ride at Sand Lake, a few miles south of Moose Lake. His riding vest was covered with the event’s “Roll Out!” stickers from Moose Lake, Mahtowa, and now Carlton.

“We’ve been here for a week from Colorado,” Milton said. “This is awesome. I learned a little about it (the Munger Trail) last year when my wife and I stayed at the Willard Munger Inn in Duluth.”

Ali Mueller, a health educator for Carlton County Public Health Services, served on the Carlton County Community Bike Ride planning/steering committee with Rosebrock. She organized a Bike Rodeo obstacle course for the children who participated in the bike ride at Carlton.

The rodeo was set up to help teach kids how to safely ride on the road and share space with vehicles, Mueller said.

Asked about how the bike ride event ties in to her job with County Public Health Services, and the Statewide Health Improvement Program, Mueller said she works to promote both active living and active transportation.

“I help walking and biking become more easily accessible in our community,” she said.

Conversation and laughter could be heard continually as riders would come and go from the Carlton rest area. Adults, riding alone or in groups of two or three, as well as family groups of children with parents, would venture out on the trail together or mill around the shelter enjoying the relaxed, getting-to-know-you atmosphere.

Lead organizer for the event, Jenna Zmyslony, spent much of her day in Mahtowa, where activities centered around TJ’s Country Corner as the local band The Langerstons entertained the crowd.

Zmyslony worked to develop this year’s ride, teaming her AmeriCorps/VISTA Community and Family Initiatives Department in Carlton County with SHIP, United Way of Carlton County, and the County Extension Office.

Zmyslony said a lot was learned from last year’s ride and they “applied it to this year.”

“Several riders told us that they thought the ride ended at the depot last year, so this year we moved our Moose Lake location to the Depot,” she said. “We also added more events, bringing in more entertainment and more vendors.”

And what about those concerns over a low, rain-dampened turnout?

“We had 115 riders start at Carlton, and 15 at Moose Lake,” Zmyslony said. “We also had 30 riders at Mahtowa.”

Other volunteers reported that 27 bike riders signed up in Barnum, where The Chickadee Coffeehouse & Deli offered a food court, and the Rustic Diner provided water, fruit, and granola bars.

In spite of less-than-ideal weather, Zmyslony was pleased with such a strong showing in just the second year of the event.

“It is going to continue,” she said. “We’ll be doing the same thing next year, expanding on the entertainment and food vendors. I hope that the event becomes something that Carlton County becomes known for.”

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