As the weather changes, a reminder about the usage and conditions of some of the more-popular trails in the Northland.  The City of Duluth is reminding everyone about the vulnerability of the regions natural surface trails - i.e. those without a paved surface - this time of the year.

The City of Duluth works in collaboration with the Superior Hiking Trail Association (SHTA) and the Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS) in oversight for these sort of trails.  Currently, they've closed all natural surface trails (dirt or any material other than concrete or asphalt) due to the annual freeze-thaw cycle that is currently under way.  This closure will last until further notice.

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While the explanation for the closure is probably apparent to those who spend a lot of time outdoors, others may have questions.  According to the city's website:

"Overnight below-freezing temperatures combined with daytime above freezing temperatures create wet and vulnerable soil conditions.  Continued use by any method (foot or bike) could result in damage to the trails.  Please avoid these trails if the soil is wet or muddy."

The process of freezing and thawing is especially hard on these types of natural-surface trails.  Matt Andrews - the Trails Coordinator for Duluth Parks and Recreation explains:

"If you see footprints or bike tire ruts in the underlying dirt, then it's best to turn around and find a different outdoor recreation opportunity.  Until everything is frozen solid, the trails are highly vulnerable to damage, which could create erosion on the trails when the snow melts next spring."

It's worth noting that the city fully-anticipates reopening natural surface trails once surface conditions allow and the ground is completely frozen.  The City of Duluth offers a wealth of trail opportunities; click here to visit an online map.