Warroad Wilderness Way Multi-Use Trail Is Open For All To Enjoy
August 19, 2023
by Laurel Latham
"In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks." John Muir
Under development for six years, Warroad Wilderness Way Multi-Use Trail is now open and usable for most of the activities on the full 15.6 miles. WWW is 16' wide trail that narrows to 10' in some of the rougher terrain, with good visibility throughout. The signage from Warroad to Bemis Hill educates and informs trail users of the scenic and historic sites along the trail.
The finished surface application on the trail is planned for this fall, allowing the remaining activities such as rollerblading and wheelchair access to take place. At that time there will be a Grand Opening celebrating the completion of Phase 1 of the Warroad Community Development (WCD) ten strategic programs.
Formed in 2017 under the leadership of Cyndy Renfrow, WCD works in partnership with the City of Warroad. The WCD Charter: "To create a lasting experience for residents and visitors alike in building the best small town in America where people choose to live, work and play because their souls are at peace here" is one step closer to achieving their goal.
In 2021, the organization received a 501(c)(3) non-profit sharing status and a nine member board of directors was formed. Ms. Renfrow retired as CEO and Chair of the WCD Board in February, when Adam Deathe assumed the role of WCD CEO. A new board chair is expected to be announced this fall. Members of the WWW Multi-Use Trail Stakeholder group were Adam Deathe, Tom Goldsmith, Myles Hogenson, Chuck Lindner, Kathy Lovelace, Jared Olafson, Cyndy Renfrow, Brian Schaible, and Jeff Siverhus.
Wilderness Way Trail has Four Priority Focuses
Community Development: The WWW builds on the ability our communities have in attracting new residents to our area with the rural balanced lifestyle, large manufacturers and job opportunities and quality of schools.
The natural resources, recreation programs and cultural elements represented in this region can be leveraged in building very strong attractions for families, individuals, and corporate programs.
Amenities like this long-distance multi-purpose trail connecting neighborhoods and weaving through the forest strengthens the recruitment capabilities of manufacturers and small businesses and attracts new families who will fill classrooms and churches.
Youth Safety: WWW will provide a corridor for individuals of all ages and cultures from our diverse neighborhoods to safely reach the forest and the lake for recreation and outdoor enjoyment and to connect with one another. This trail offers the opportunity to foster children who enjoy outdoor recreation and value physical and mental wellness and have a high level of awareness of safety on trails. This trail provides a path that ensures the safety and security of our youth whether on foot, bike or motorized recreational vehicles.
Environmental and Land Access: The WWW trail is located in an environmental transition area of Minnesota where the coniferous forest gives way in places to the prairies. As a result of this unique location, wildlife enthusiasts will appreciate our outdoor paradise and the sandy pine forests to the east. At any time, trail user may observe wildlife such as the rare trumpeter swans and sandhill cranes as well as bear, deer, wild turkey, grouse, fox, turtles, rabbits, ducks, geese, porcupine, wolves, and many wild bird species. The Beltrami Island State Forest with its 703,366 acres of boreal forests, coniferous swamp, cedar bogs, and tall red and white pine forests and the Warroad and Roseau River waterways create challenging terrain for the adventuresome and skilled riders and relaxing and easy terrain for family rides.
The new multi-use trail will help keep ATVs and snowmobiles on the trail versus cutting up roadsides and ruining the quiet and beautiful aesthetics of the Scenic Byways in this corridor. We will stand a better chance at preserving the natural habitat.
Diversity and Inclusion: The new WWW trail will provide a corridor for all demographics of our neighborhoods to reach the forest and the lake for recreation and outdoor enjoyment. With Warroad having a large ethnic population while also having a 17% poverty rate- significantly higher than the Minnesota State average of 10%- we see this trail providing a recreational option for the cross-section of our community. Not everyone can afford a boat, ATV or snowmobile, but they can have access to free bikes in the summer and access to snowshoes in the winter. Without any special effort, they can enjoy family time on walks through our beautiful trail scenes and scapes.
"Warroad has long been an outdoor Mecca," explains Jared Olafson. "Year-round access to Beltrami via Warroad makes this northern Minnesota region a destination. Having direct access to the forest and its 250 miles of trails and walking paths allows everyone to experience what locals have always known. From hiking to hunting to photography to biking to skiing and skating, Warroad is the place to be! Regardless of your favorite outdoor activity, this trail is for you!"
Other Community Benefits
In a 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment, obesity, physical activity and mental health were identified as top issues affecting the people of Roseau County. This corridor offers new opportunities for experiencing the outdoors, creating time and activity for physical and mental wellness and offering venues for family friendly activities in a world of natural adventures.
"LifeCare is a proud supporter of this wellness initiative to Roseau County," reports Keith Okeson, President/CEO, LifeCare Medical Center. "Our mission is to provide care for a healthy life and the Warroad Trail Project aligns closely by providing a safe and comprehensive trail network in the community for both summer and winter activities including skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, running, walking, biking, and other similar activities."
Broadening activities to offer to new workforce recruits and tourists will strengthen the likelihood they will choose our area, and increase the permanency of their stay or frequency of their visits.
"The Warroad Wilderness Way is a multi-use trail that will offer our local community, as well as visitors, access to the Beltrami Island State Forest via a corridor that transitions from a busy community to wilderness," stresses Jeff Siverhus. "Along this corridor, point of interest signage will highlight infrastructure, geology, history, and biological diversity that make our area an interesting place to live and visit. As examples, signage will describe the formation of the Ridge along with the routes of high transmission power lines east of Warroad. Further south, signage describes the rare beauty of the Bemis Swamp and its designation as a High Value Conservation Forest."
The completion of the Warroad Wilderness Way Multi-Use Trail was made possible by a 2021 Federal Recreational Trail Program Grant and with the assistance of several sponsors. Platinum Sponsors include City Of Warroad, LifeCare Medical Center, Marvin, Private Endowment Gift, Roseau County, and Security State Bank. The Gold Sponsor was Polaris.
"Warroad Community Development is focused on long-term strategic planning and implementation of public objectives for the community of Warroad and the surrounding region," said Tom Goldsmith. "The Warroad Wilderness Way trail establishes a regional artery between our vibrant community, the bountiful waters of Lake of the Woods and Bemis Hill, which is the symbolic headwaters of Beltrami Forest's vast trail system. On behalf of the WCD Board, thank you to the many donors and project team members whose funding, diligent planning, and hard work made WWW Trail possible."