Pow Wow Trail: Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Fellow Meetup-Friends of the BWCA Trails members,
“It is impossible to backpack the 31 mile the BWCA Pow Wow Trail at normal pace in 3 days when 1,200 treefalls block hikers’ path.”
I am writing to you about the Pagami Creek Fire, how it affected the Pow Wow Trail, and our mission to bring it back.
In 2011 the Pagami Creek fire grew to devour 148 square miles of Superior National Forest. In that catastrophic fire, about 95% of the 31 mile long Pow Wow Trail burnt down, leaving a charred, dead forest. While the Forest Service has cleared and marked some of the trail in 2012-13 and plans to do more trail clearing this May the Pow Wow Trail currently has 1,200 tree falls. More than 700 will remain even after the May trail clearing. What’s more the rock cairns pointing the way are overgrown with shoulder high vegetation – leaving the trail un-hike-able for even the toughest enthusiast. Although 23 million dollars were spent to douse the Pagami Creek fire, very little money was spent to bring the area back. Worse yet, the Forest Service’s current intent is to not do any trail clearing in 2015-16 seasons. It is not clear at all what the Forest Service will do after that. What is clear is that the Pow Wow Trail tread will be lost. “And once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
The Boundary Waters Advisory Committee’s mission is to preserve the existing, historic and intrinsically beautiful trails of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. To fulfill that mission we organize trail clearing trips, raise awareness about the BWCAW hiking trails and lobby with Forest Service and Congress on behalf of trails.
After the Pow Wow Trail burnt down, it was the BWA Committee that rallied and brought together a Coalition of 11 outdoor and environmental groups to urge the Forest Service to bring the trail back. Since then, the PWT restoration effort has moved at a glacial pace. At the current rate and plan, the Pow Wow Trail will not be cleared again until 2017 and that is bad news for Minnesota hikers. Desperate circumstances require desperate measures. The Board of Directors has voted unanimously to switch gears and to devote our efforts to “Bring back the Pow Wow Trail”. In addition, rather than loose the Recreational Trail Program grant funds awarded last year, we will organize trips on Kekekabic Trail (one area of the grant) so that these funds are not forfeited.
There have been changes both at the USFS personnel on districts and at BWA Committee leadership. For now BWA Committee priorities are:
1)Pow Wow Trail advocacy for restoration (awareness building, survey and clearing
2)Organizing trips to fund the RTP grant on Kekekabic Trail (East). 3)Survey trips and maintenance on other BWCA trails.
Being a non-professionalized non-profit means that our resources are limited and thus the BWA Committee will not be sponsoring trail maintenance trips on Sioux Hustler Trail this spring. A number of crew leaders were disappointed, and given the option of supporting the BWA Committee mission or organizing trips on their own, some left the organization. Your dedication and enthusiasm for clearing trails is amazing! Remember that without a voice for the trails, the very trails you hold so dear would not exist today and we would be left with only 1/3 of the current 200 miles of BWCAW trails.
Minnesotans have a right to keep the wilderness trails open and keep them maintained annually. We should not have to wait for six years for the Pow Wow Trail to be cleared. Nor should we have to drive 1,000 miles in twenty years because the BWCAW trails were abandoned. That would be a disgrace and disservice to the public. BWA Committee is here to provide leadership with a vision for the Pow Wow Trail, for all of us.
There is hope. I believe we can bring the Pow Wow Trail back. We could clear the 700 treefalls in about six to eight weekend trips. I know this because in 1990, 115 volunteers brought back the 40 mile long Kekekabic Trail after cutting 3,000 treefalls in a single summer. And that is the sole reason why the Kekekabic Trail is still open.
I will be meeting with a new Tofte Ranger District ranger, Kurt Steele and hope that we can work out a plan to engage the volunteers in meaningful ways to re-open the Pow Wow Trail this year, and if not this year, by next May. For that to happen we all need to unite and speak with one voice to the Forest Service and the Legislature. BWA Committee will be hosting orientation session on Tuesday, April 15 at 7:00 PM at Midwest Mountaineering to seek your input and provide information about how you can make a difference. Let’s bring the Pow Wow Trail back. The sooner we can make that happen, the sooner we can maintain the other favorite BWCAW trails.
Martin Kubik, founder and president , email: email@example.com , 651-214-5849 cell