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North Country Trail winds way to Tamarac

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In 2012, the North Country National Scenic Trail was extended 21 miles in Becker County, including 14.5 miles in the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge.

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“We’ve been planning this trail for 20 years,” said Kelly Blackledge, Visitors Services manager with U.S. Fish and Wildlife. “Now that it’s done and walkable, it’s really a treasure.”

Prior to the trail’s construction, the refuge was home to just two designated hiking trails, totaling 2.5 miles, she explained. The remaining 43,000-acre area was accessed by service roads.

“The heart of this is volunteers,” said Ray Vlasak, Laurentian Lakes Chapter president said.

Work began in April 2012 at the Greenwater Lake Science and Natural Area, the crew working south and west to the Tamarac, completing work last fall just north of Hubbel Pond.

The refuge’s abundant wetlands and the winding Otter Tail River proved a challenge in routing, Regional Trail Coordinator Matt Davis explained.

The pathway, Blackledge said, must be balanced with wildlife and habitat.

After the trail route earned approval from partners – the county and the refuge – construction of the treadway began. A Minnesota Conservation Corps crew arrived, thanks to a $100,000 Legacy grant, working most of last summer removing stumps and rocks. Laurentian Lakes chapter volunteers, sometimes as many as 15 a day, began work after clearing was complete.

The trail in the Tamarac Refuge can be accessed directly west of 400th Avenue, with parking available. Signs will be added this spring. The NCT is also accessible from Blackbird Wildlife Drive. Now, 150 miles of contiguous trail runs from Remer in Cass County through Hubbard, Clearwater and Becker counties, most of it forested.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities, go to www.northcountrytrail.org or e-mail hq@northcountrytrail.org.

Mark your calendars for the Tamarac’s Grand Opening Celebration of the North Country Trail on June 1.

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