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Rollin’ along the lakes: Glendalough Trail offers easy going for bicyclists

Submitted photo. Biking along the Glendalough Trail is flat and easy for even some of the youngest riders.

Traffic of the two-wheeled variety has picked up in Battle Lake this summer with the completion of the 12-mile Glendalough Trail.

Discussion for the trail began amongst community members in 2008, along with other ideas such as housing, downtown beautification and parks to improve and encourage growth in the community.

Organizers for the trail coordinated with Glendalough State Park to create a paved loop path that is available for use by residents and tourists alike to casually bike through the area.

While the trail is mostly intended for bicyclists, it is also available for use by walkers, skaters and is wheelchair accessible.

The 10-foot-wide, paved trail begins at the Lakes Area Community Center on West Main Street in Battle Lake. Free parking is available there, at the trailhead. The path heads north out of town along the shore of West Battle Lake. From town, it is about a one-mile ride to the park’s entrance. Once in the park, riders can loop around Molly Stark and Annie Battle lakes while taking advantage of the restrooms and picnic areas within the park.

It’s a very easy ride, said trail organizer and promoter Lisa Malmstrom. The trail does not have much change in incline, and those changes are rather gradual.

Also along the trail in the park are several interpretive sites, said Malmstrom. As the trail was being paved, several Native American archeological sites were unearthed and excavated. These path markers share the discoveries that were made, along with some of the park’s history.

Funding for the trail came from a variety of sources, including federal transportation grants, state bonding, Department of Natural Resources and local philanthropists.

“Well over $2 million of funding has been applied to the Glendalough Trail system over the past few years,” said trail coordinator and bicycling enthusiast Dan Malmstrom. “All of this followed the early and generous philanthropy of Arvig Communications and the Espeland family. They gave life to the vision in 2008.”

An Otto Bremer Foundation grant also enabled organizers to promote the new amenity and attract visitors.

Some connected to the project, such as Glendalough Park Manager Jeff Wiersma, were not sure that the trail would make a significant initial difference.

“We’ve seen a huge difference in traffic,” said Wiersma. “I did not expect such a return.”

He said that he thought it would have taken years for the project to make make up for the park’s investment. Instead, Wiersma estimated that it might have taken only weeks.

“We had the best July we’ve ever had,” he said, and the number of people camping in the park or using it for a day has also significantly increased. “It’s been our best summer ever. We now have business when there was nothing before.” Even drizzly days aren’t enough to dissuade bikers from taking a spin, he said.

Exact figures for the number of users are not available since bikers do not need to pay a vehicle fee to enter the park.

While bicyclists do not need to pay the same fees to enter the park, Wiersma asks everyone who visits the park to respect trails’ designated uses and check signs before biking off the main trail. Some paths are for hiking only, not bikes or other methods of transportation, he explained.

Plans are in place to add bike racks along the Glendalough Trail so riders can explore in a way that is safe for the park and its other users.

A special opening weekend for the trail is planned as part of the Battle Lake Area Pumpkin Fest on Friday, Sept. 26 and Saturday, Sept. 27. On Friday, a grand opening event will be held in the park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The opening will include golf cart rides along the trail for those who cannot ride a bike. Ride times may be reserved by calling 218-862-5222. Saturday morning, there will be a bike trail ride from 8:30-10:30 a.m.

For more information about the Glendalough Trail, visit www.morethanatrail. com.