Banadad 2011 Trail Plan
The Banadad Ski Trail System is a public ski trail managed by the Banadad Trail Association, under an agreement with the Gunflint Ranger District (USFS) and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The Minnesota Ski Pass and BWCA Day Permit are required to ski the Banadad Trail System. Free public parking is provided at the trail’s eastern and western trailheads.
The Banadad Trail System consists of the 30-kilometer Banadad Trail, an intimate trail through the Boundary Waters Wilderness, and another 13 kilometers of trails (Lace Lake, Tim Knopp, Seppala and the Tall Pines Trails) located at the Banadad's eastern end. All the trails are single tracked.
The Banadad Trail was originally constructed as a series of logging roads in the fifties and sixties. As a result the trail is blessed with a good gravel roadbed. All but one of five original bridges along the Banadad has been replaced over the years. Skiers now bypass the one bridge that has not been replaced. The other trails in the Banadad Trail System were constructed as ski trails over the past twenty years.
The old Finn Lake and Tucker Lake logging roads that were to become the Banadad Ski Trail were cleared by the Gunflint Ranger District, USFS staff in 1982 and 1983 at the request of winter resorts on the Gunflint Trail. Area resorts first groomed the trail in 1982. The construction and grooming of this trail was authorized under two provisions in the 1978 Boundary Waters Act that called for the construction of recreational trails including, ski trails, within the BWCA and allowed grooming by snowmobile of some of these ski trails.
The Banadad Trails are centrally located along the 200-kilometer Gunflint Nordic Trails. The eastern end of the Banadad connects with the Central Gunflint Trails and at the western end skiers must walk along the Gunflint Trail 1/8 of mile to the Loon Lake Landing where they can then ski into the Upper Gunflint Trail System.
There are six USFS BWCA Day Permit boxes along the Banadad Trail. Two permit boxes are located at or near the eastern trailhead, and the others at Swamp Lake Portage, Lizz Lake Portage and the western trailhead. Boundary Country Trekking collects permits at the eastern and western trailhead boxes and supplies all the permit boxes along the trail with permits during the winter. For the maintenance of these boxes BCT exchanges their winter Guide Packer Permit fee with the USFS in lieu of cash. The BWCA Day Permits are used to determine the number of skier days each winter.
The major problem facing the trail is the annual accumulation of brush. Much of this brush grows several feet per year. This problem is particularly acute near the remote interior center of the trail where traveling to the work areas is extremely difficult. This problem is now being addressed through the “Remote Interior Widening Project[i]." This project was initiated in 2005. (More detail on this project appears later in this document.)
Last year’s USFS Mead’s and Dawkin’s Lakes prescribed burn have resulted in opening the forest canopy to brush producing sunlight and causing half burned-out trees to fall into the trail thus multiplying our maintenance problem
Tree planting May 2010
While Nordic Skiing is normally considered an eco-friendly sport, the Banadad Trail System continues to take this one step further. Three years ago the Banadad Trails became, what we believe to be, the nation's first carbon neutral ski trail.[ii] The BTA is committed to continuing this tradition.
Tree planting along the Trail-2010
III. Review of the 2010-2011 Season
Continued partnership with Boundary Country Trekking (BCT) - The BTA continues to partner with our contractor, Boundary Country Trekking, to provide oversight, direction, and essential expertise on maintaining, grooming, and improving the Banadad Trail. BCT implements the BTA Trail Plan elements as we secure funding and resources and provides valuable guidance on monitoring issues and care of the trail. This expertise in an invaluable resource for the BTA Board’s stewardship of the Trail.
Maintenance and grooming- This past fall volunteers logged 3,904 hours working on the Banadad’s eastern end and the Lace Lake Trail. Boundary Country Trekking staff did the reminder of the trail’s work.
Trail groomers logged 188 hours covering 742 miles.Dawkin’s and Mead’s Lake Prescribed Burns- The Meads Lake burn resulted in significant damage to the trail going west four miles from the Meads Lake Portage. The worst damaged area was a 2000-foot section just west of the Old Winchell Lake Fire Trail where the fire destroy a beautiful area of old growth White Cedar and young White Pine.
The southern end of the Old Winchell Lake Fire Trail, used by maintenance crews to access a portion of the trail’s east end, also received considerable damage. This trail was never re-cleared by Fire Crews.
It is anticipated that the removal of burnout trees that have fallen across the trail and the growth of brush in fire-opened areas will present a major maintenance problem on the east end of the Banadad.
On the trail’s other end the Dawkin’s burn, only minimal damage was done to the trail with mostly spot burns along a four miles section from the BWCA entry east. Maintenance of this end will mainly require monitoring for fallen burnt trees.
Remote Interior Widening- A one-mile section along the trail’s western end was widened and a Minnesota Conservation Corps (MCC) crew widened another 2 1/3 miles on either side of the trail’s midtrail junction.
Snow Cover-The 2010-11 season was good snow year along the Banadad and throughout the state. The result was that the Banadad’s skier days were down considerably from last year. In years when other nearby areas and the state have good snow conditions, the Banadad Trail’s skier days go down as skiers have many other ski venues. See annual skier days 2004-05 to 2010-11. [iii]
Winter Mix Storm- a late December wintry-mix storm left down trees and brush blocking the entire trails system. The trail was unusable for about two-weeks. Reopening the trail require 213 hours of hand labor by volunteers and paid staff at a cost of over $3,400.
New Snowmobile- With the assistance of Grant from the DNR and loan from Cook County the BTA was able to purchase a new Skandic SWT 800 snowmobile and leveler groomer. The snowmobile is leased to Boundary Country Trekking by the BTA to ensure reliable equipment is available for grooming the trail.
Tree Planting- During May 2010 the BTA planted 800 +/- conifers along the Lace Lake and Tall Pines Trail and the Little Ollie Road. Hedstrom Lumber Company in Grand Marais donated the trees.
IV. This years -Projects and Plans
- Contracted Services Interior Widening – A ½ - ¾ mile section on the east end of the Banadad from 2nd bridge west to near Ham Lake Burn will be widened this spring. Project scheduled to be completed in May or early June using remaining funds received through our Capital Improvement Grant.
· Volunteer Crew
o West end BWCA entrance to the first beaver Pond beyond Dawkins Bridge
o Banadad Green-Up to 600 Red and White Pines to be planted in and round the Lace Lake and Tall Pines Trails- May 7 and 14
- this summer Request use of
MCC crew during to:
o Widen West end from the first beaver pond east of Dawkins Bridge to 100 yards beyond second beaver pond
o Hike remainder of west end Banadad cutting out all down trees and over hanging brush Widen ¾ mile section from mid trail junction west cutting overhanging brush from the mid trail junction to Bedew Lake Yurt Camp ¾ mile
- West end reroute/easement agreement- BTA will be working with new owners of Trap Lake property to try to work out an easement agreement.
· Prescribed Burn areas- Request USFS Fire Crews
o Winchell Lake Fire Trail- Request the use of USFS fire crew- to reopen the Fire Trail and cut out all the burnt trees that had fallen over the summer onto trail between the Skipper Lake Portage south to the Banadad Trail. - Approximately1 mile.
o Meads Lake Burn- request use of USFS fire Crew to cut out all trees that have fall across trail due to the USFS Meads Lake Prescribed Burn along the Banadad west from the Meads Lake Portage west to the second bridge directly north of Moon Lake approximately four miles.
· Sign/kiosk- Install a sign/kiosk with map at intersection of Lace Lake and Central Gunflint’s Poplar Creek Trail
Banadad Bridge- Rebuild bridge and cut out Ham Lake fire burn area (1 ½ miles east of Bridge – need crew of 4-5 volunteers and 1-2 paid staff. Project will take two days with one night camping on Rush Lake. Scheduled for early September. Crew will need a BWCA “work permit” from USFS.DRAfT 1
The Banadad Trail Association will also try to secure funding to undertake these additional efforts (at the time of this Trail Plan, such funds are not secured):
· Mowing –If BTA can find the money, an ASV or other tracked vehicle with brush hog would be hired to brush the: Lace Lake/Tall Pines Trails (3 ½ miles), Banadad east end outside of BWCA (1 ½ miles), and/or Moose Trail 4 ½ miles)
· Snow Season Emergency Clearing- again this year the BTA will have to be prepared to re-open a brush clogged trail caused by rain followed by heavy wet snow.
An extra heavy snow season this year challenged the BTA and its contractor BCT to keep the trail open this year on a few occasions. Supplemental DNR Grant In Aid funds were essential to keeping the trail open and groomed. There were some days the trail was not in good skiing condition due to the time necessary to remove downed trees and overhanging brush. This is a challenge the BTA Board has discussed this spring, and while it may not always be possible to clear and remove downed trees and branches immediately after an unusually large snowfall, it is important to have information available on the trail conditions, to alert skiers to any potential problems. To this end, BCT will provide timely updates that caution skiers when such trail conditions have occurred. While the Banadad is a wilderness ski trail in large part, and skiers should approach it as such, the trail has a long established reputation for being groomed at high standards. A future goal for the BTA is to develop the structure and capacity to address such emergency situations and this is an on-going long-term goal in our Trails/Maintenance Committee’s work.
i. The project proposes to widen remote areas of the trail not normally accessible to BTA’s volunteers. Project standards are as follows; where brush is the dominant vegetation- cut/clear brush along trail right away to minimum width of eight feet (8') and removes all brush overhanging right away, where conifers are the dominant vegetation- cut brush and conifers to create a minimum of a six (6) foot trail right away. Thin conifers on sides of right away to promote growth of remaining conifers and trim all over hanging conifers branches up to a minimum of ten (10') high.
[iii] [iii] These figures were based the USFS BWCA Permits collected from trail users. The non- permitted skiers estimate is based up 10% non- permitted skiers. Note: in 2010 the percentage of non-permitted skiers was reduced from 20 to 10% for each year. Not included in these totals are the skiers on the Moose Trail most of who came from Voyagers Point on Poplar Lake.
Local day skiers Non Local ski Estimated Non permitted Skiers Total Trail Days
2004-05 116 428 55 599
2005-06 130 601 73 804
2007-08 99 720 82 900
2008-09 71 583 65 784
2009-10 177 783 96 1056
2010- 11 170 560 73 803