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Chisholm taps into mine potential for recreation

The Iron Range has provided industry. Now it's providing recreation, which includes the Redhead Mountain Bike trail.

CHISHOLM, Minn. — For decades...the Iron Range in Minnesota has provided.

"The pits that you see here actually represent nine different mines that were constructed in this area over the years," Pete Kero said. Kero is the president of the Iron Range off road cyclists group.  

Iron is and was the backbone of the the Iron Range and notably, a contributor to the Allied victory of World War II. Now, it is one again responsible for a different kind of victory-- one that keeps your feet busy.

"It's been a process to get to where we are today, we've been working on developing a trail on the iron range for about 10 years now," Kero added as he stood on the Redhead Mountain Bike trail in Chisholm.

"The mine rock, both the exposed bedrock and the crushed rock you see at my feet here make excellent material for constructing a mountain bike trail," he said.

Kero described the effort everyone put in to create the trails for the past ten years as a labor of love. It took a lot of work to breathe new life into something that sat idle.

"The lifeblood of this region is mining," he said. "That's why the towns are here that's why the mines are here. We don't want this project to get in the way of that, but we also want to enhance the quality of life for people, the recreational draw."

Ever since the mountain bike trails opened up two months ago, people have told Donna Johnson that it's a treat. Johnson is the executive director of the Minnesota Discovery Center.

"This is my favorite spot, I get goosebumps," Johnson said. "It's more than we ever imagined, and the responses for everyone who rides the trails, their jaws are dropped."

For a town the size of Chisholm-- these trails are a larger than life offer--the kind that makes you come and stay, maybe for good. 

"It gives people another reason to relocate here for the mountain bike trails, we talked to a couple who moved from Seattle to Duluth just because they had an opportunity here to ride their bikes," Johnson added. "I think hopefully my sons will wanna stay in the area."

The beauty of it all also includes the fact that someday-- they may have to let it all go. Mining might return to the very area.

"We're glad that we've got recreation and industry kind of side by side, occurring, and some day it's possible that this area might be ripe for mining again, in which case, we would move the trail to another area," Kero said.

"I think the timeline-- it sounds like it could be a short life cycle but if mining were to continue, that takes a long time," Johnson added. "We'll have these trails to enjoy for a long time even if mining were to return, but there's always places to move to and other landscapes very similar."

So in the meantime-- Chisholm is ready to welcome you, so you can stain your tires and shoes red with its iron-rich rock.

Reminding us the importance of the industry that is keeping a city, an economy and culture afloat.