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Mountain man

Tony Schmitz works on construction of a new mountain bike trail. Building in stages, he hopes to eventually create a 3-mile loop for mountain bikes near Detroit Mountain.

On a bright fall day, Tony Schmitz hacks his way through the Becker County woods under a canopy of amber.

Somewhat oblivious to the beauty around him, he is set to his task of cutting a single-lane mountain bike track through the county land off Tower Road east of Detroit Lakes.

He locates the problem he's been looking for -- an old barbed wire fence across the path. The rusty old wire is no match for his lopping shears.

"I've been out here twice and each time the tool I brought wouldn't cut through that fence," he said.

Schmitz and one other volunteer have been hard at work, usually on the weekends and evenings, for the past two weeks creating a path laid out by Chip Lohmeier, Becker County Director of Parks and Recreation.

The two have cleared about a half-mile of trail perpendicular to the county's walking and cross-country ski trails on what was once a large piece of tax-forfeited land.

Building in stages, Schmitz hopes to eventually create a three-mile loop of trail solely for mountain bike use in the summer and snowshoe use in the winter.

The first, and several subsequent phases, will connect the bike path to the existing walking path until a full loop is completed.

Schmitz' vision came to him as he was cross-country skiing on the trails this spring and thought the area would be a great spot for a single-lane bike trail. He found out Lohmeier had the same vision and had already flagged a trail.

Lohmeier said a mountain bike trail had always been in the master plan of the county when it put in the hiking-ski trails last year. Since the existing hiking-ski trail gets a lot of use, the new bike trail will only add to the recreation opportunities in Becker County, he said.

"Just about every time I'm out there, I see someone either walking, biking or riding horse or something," Lohmeier said.

When he flagged the new bike trail, Lohmeier left some leeway in his design.

"They're mountain bikers and I'm not," Lohmeier said. "So they have a little bit of latitude on either side of my trail as far as if they see some natural features they want to incorporate into the trail, they can do that."

Schmitz likes the idea of having more options for mountain bikers closer to Detroit Lakes.

"You don't have to drive all the way out (to Maplelag) for a nice bike trail," he said.

Schmitz figures about 10 to 12 hours of work are needed to complete a loop this fall, but that all depends on how many volunteers he can round up to help in the construction.

He is hoping to do some major work on the trail next weekend, Oct. 9 and 10, and is seeking a few more volunteers to help, as a large number of people working on the trail at one time wouldn't be good.

Shovels, rakes and pulaskis -- a combination between a hoe and an ax -- are about the only tools needed to work on the trail.

If you're interested in volunteering, contact Chip Lohmeier at 218-846-2612.