Welcome to Glenwood, Minnesota, site of the state’s newest, coolest bike park.
There’s a hill in Minnesota that’s about to get a whole new life. Trail builder and Flylow-sponsored mountain biker Cody Wilkins—whose family hails from Glenwood, Minnesota—is at work building a new bike trail at the town’s Barness Park, a 300-acre park on the southern edge of Glenwood, near Lake Minnewaska.
It’s a place Wilkins’ family has a long history. “My grandma and uncle live on my family’s fourth generation cattle farm in Glenwood, and my mom recently moved back to town,” says Wilkins, who grew up in upstate New York but spent a month or so each summer as a kid helping his grandpa on the ranch.
As the story goes, the Glenwood Ski Club built a ski jump at Barness Park around 1911. A few years later, in January 1915, some of the best ski jumpers in the country gathered for a competition. The ski jump was later used for the U.S. Championships in 1923, the Olympic trials in 1924, and the Central Championships in 1926. Wilkins’ great uncle was a ski jumper at the park in the 1940s. The ski jump was eventually torn down in the early 1960s, but cross-country skiing and snowshoeing remain popular pastimes here in the winter months. There are a few miles of hiking trails in the park, but mountain biking? Not really a thing. Until now.
In 2008, voters in Minnesota approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, which increased sales tax to set money aside for four separate funds: outdoor heritage, arts and culture, clean water, and yes, parks and trails. The Parks and Trails Legacy Fund supports the construction of parks and trail networks of statewide or regional significance. Over $508 million have been spent on trail building projects in the state since the fund was created.
“The mountain bike industry in Minnesota is booming, and they’re building miles and miles of trails,” Wilkins says.
The town of Glenwood got awarded a grant for seven miles of new bike trails. Building the trail went to public bidding. Wilkins, the project coordinator and head of development for Sensus RAD Trails, based in Bellingham, Washington, bid for the project and won. (Wilkins says he doesn’t think his family ties helped him get the bid, but it might have helped that he had a free place to stay while building the trails.)
“To me, it means reopening this park for recreation and for this community,” Wilkins says. “They want the youth in the town to have something to do. The high school mountain bike program in the region is growing quickly, and this is their answer to it.”
The project—which will be completed early this summer—will include seven miles of flow trails, cross-country trails, and eventually, a skills park. Wilkins says he plans to stock the local bike shop with a half dozen community bikes, which will be free to use and easy to rent, so that people can get into mountain biking without cost being a barrier to entry. “I didn’t want anyone to be excluded,” he says. “This park is for the whole community.”