It's that time of year again - something that Northlanders know all too well:  the freeze/thaw cycle is active, causing changes to the ground density until the temperature properly drops low enough to freeze it solid.  The season has caused a closure of all natural surface trails - like dirt - within the city.

The City of Duluth Parks and Recreation division - along with the Superior Hiking Trail Association (SHTA) and the Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS) are working to get the message out to outdoor enthusiasts in the area about the closure.

Trail closed sign in Duluth, MN
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

Similar to years past, this closure for the freeze/thaw cycle is temporary in nature.  Overnight below-freezing temperatures combined with daytime above-freezing temperatures create wet and vulnerable soil conditions that cam damage the trails with continued use.  The city trail experts warn users to avoid these trails if the soil is damp or muddy in nature.

Matt Andrews - Parks and Recreation Trails Coordinator for the City of Duluth explains:  "If you see footprints or bike tire ruts in the underlying dirt, then it's best to turn around and find a different outdoor recreation opportunity.  Until everything is frozen solid, the trails are highly vulnerable to damage, which could cause erosion on the trails when the snow melts next spring."

The closure is expected to be short term and temporary.  The City of Duluth fully anticipates reopening the natural surface trails once surface conditions allow and the ground has completely frozen.

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Meanwhile, the city reminds outdoor enthusiasts about the opportunity for winter trail use. Gravel surface trails will remain open throughout winter - including the Duluth Winnipeg Pacific (DWP) Trail and the Waabizheshikana (formerly Western Waterfront Trail).  While these trails won't be plowed, they will be open.  At the same time, trail users will have a variety of paved surface trails open to them for winter use - including the Campus Connector Trail, Lakewalk, and the Cross-City Trail; these will be cleared of snow and will be open regardless of weather conditions.

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