LUTSEN, MN – New trails, lifts, snow machines and more could be on their way to the Lutsen Mountains as they seek to expand more than 500 acres into the Upper National Forest.
The aim is to provide more skiing and outdoor recreation opportunities for locals and visitors.
The project has been in the works for a few years, and now all they need is a green light from the US Forest Service after a period of public comment.
But, some groups are concerned about the kind of impact this could have on the untouched wilderness.
In order for Lutsen to expand, part of the Upper Hiking Trail (SHT) will need to be relocated.
In Lutsen’s original environmental impact statement, they showed the trail crossing part of the ski slopes and enlarged recreation areas.
A route that the course leaders say is not ideal.
“We just want to avoid conflicts between users. We want to preserve the nature-based experience that people expect to have,” said Lisa Luokkala, executive director of the Superior Hiking Trail Association. “We would just prefer that since there is room to retreat, we would like to suggest a change of route and retain the wild and rustic nature of the upper hiking trail through Mt Lutsetn.”
The Superior Hiking Trail Association said it posted a comment last year that included their proposed route change. They say the redistribution preserves the wilderness experience hikers are looking for.
They say they have not heard from Lutsen Mountains, which still leaves many questions unresolved, including funding.
âWe were hoping before going forward with an alternative that they would affirm our approval and also work with us on cost sharing,â Luokkala said.
Ultimately, the trail leaders say they are not opposed to the Lutsen Mountains expansion plan; they just want to sit down at the table before big decisions are made.
âWe just want to influence the areas that we know we are the experts on, namely experience with trail corridors and trail building,â said Luokkala.
According to SHT executives, in 2018, when the proposed project was first announced, it was understood that Lutsen would pay to relocate the trail. However, no formal agreement has been reached.
We reached out to Lutsen to comment on the situation. They said the expansion project is necessary to maintain winter tourism and demand for skiers.
They said they were ready to work with the leadership of SHT as the proposal progressed through the review process.
Public comments on this project are open until Monday, October 25.
If you want to comment, click on here.