Mountain bike track at Movil Maze under construction
Wearing heavy cotton twill pants, a long-sleeve shirt covered with a mosquito net coat, mosquito head gear and gloves, Tom Damon has spent every free moment in the woods at Movil Maze since the end of March.
He has a goal to bring a single-track course to Bemidji.
Single track is a trail system for mountain bikers. It is about two feet wide, and the terrain at Movil Maze is a perfect location.
Carrying a grubber, a weighted tamper, a flat pan shovel in a wheelbarrow, Damon will put Bemidji on the map with a technical hilly course to challenge mountain bikers.
"Twenty years ago, I lived and worked out west working on ski trails," he said. "Summers were spent on mountain biking trails. I've always wanted to bring that here."
Damon approached Beltrami County Recreational Resource Manager John Winter and received approval for stage one, a three-mile course. Once that is complete and if it is approved by the county, Damon said stage two will bring an additional five miles.
"I'm really impressed with his work; he really knows what he's doing," Winter said. "Developing a mountain bike trail at Movil Maze was in the county's facilities plan and along came Tom.
"We decided to start with a small area. The trail is very well designed, little impact, you can hardly tell it's there and there is no erosion."
Damon has been clearing a two-foot-wide course in the deep woods of northern Minnesota.
"If this was a sport, it would be extreme gardening," Damon said. "I cleared a section, then work got in the way, and I left it for two weeks and came back to see it totally grew back."
A friend at Lake Concrete suggested covering the trail with crushed granite rock dust. Lake Concrete has donated enough yards of product to nearly complete the three miles.
Movil Maze already has a network of snowmobile and cross country trails, but using the existing trails was not an option, Damon said.
To avoid erosion, he uses the natural contour of the land to build the trail.
"I've seen heavy rain hit the trail and seen no erosion," he said. "I want this to last for years. I initially walked it forwards and backward until I was confident to flag it."
As the word of the project spread, more individuals have aided Damon in his dream. If the single track receives the green light for stage two, he said he hopes to write a grant to help speed up the building of the additional five miles. That would mean less time he has to wear mosquito netting.