Outdoor recreation has saw a significant increase this summer as people look for safe ways to spend their time.
A recent donation could make the use of a local trail even more accessible.
The Ice Age Trail Alliance-Superior Lobe Chapter received a donation to purchase a new lawn mower for upkeep of the Tuscobia Segment of the trail.
Mary Hilfiker is the daughter of Hulda Hilfiker, a prominent figure in the process of converting the old railroad bed to a state trail. Hilfiker said when there was debate on whether or not the land where the tracks once stood should be sold to farms and others along the path, her mother organized the farmers to oppose the plan and turn the path into a recreation trail.
Previously the trail had been mowed by a tractor and pull-behind mower. Hilfiker hopes that by mowing the grass to a shorter length it will convince people to give hiking on the trail a try.
“One of the reason I wanted to have the mower is there is still a lot of people in rural areas that are nervous about hiking through wooded area, but with it being mowed I think people feel safer,” she said.
Bjorn and Kristin Hanson with Out There Nordic Sports have hosted many events on the trail. When the trail is well groomed it more accessible to those who haven’t spent a lot of time in the outdoors.
“I think it’s going to have an impact on a lot of fronts especially in our current COVID situation,” Bjorn said. “So many more people are out exploring and I think the more user-friendy, especially to the people that are new to outdoor recreation, it’s going to be that much more inviting for them to go and try more sections of the Ice Age Trail.”
The 11.2-mile segment beginning from Hwy. SS north of Rice Lake to near Birchwood is wide enough to accommodate groups, as well as provide the space for those looking to keep a level of social distance from other hikers.
Hilfiker said the smoother terrain of the trail also allows older individuals to walk the trail.
“I’ve hike all over the world and not everyone can do the rugged middle of nowhere hiking,” Hilfiker said. “I can no longer do it either. This is an aging population in Barron County and surrounding area, so it gives more access to people that are older too.”
The Superior Lobe Chapter is looking to place a shortage unit in Brill for easier transport of the lawnmower to the trail. The chapter is always looking for volunteers to join the group. They are currently working to put more benches along the segments of the trail to provide areas where hikers can rest. Those interested in donating a bench as a way to honor someone or as a memorial can contact the chapter. More information on the Superior Lobe Chapter can be found on its Facebook page (Facebook.com/SuperiorLobeChapter) or website (Iceagetrail.org/volunteer/chapters/superior-lobe).
In the promotion of outdoor activity the key is to make use welcoming, Hanson said. That’s something the new lawnmower and a finely-clipped path can do.
“The people that have been involved in this (outdoor) community for a long time are used to trudging through knee-deep grass to do what they want to do but that user group is already convinced that they should be doing this,” Hanson said, “but as we’re trying to get new users to go out and explore a ski trail in the winter or Ice Age Trail hiking in the summer we have to continue to make it more and more user-friendly.”