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Third annual Paul Bunyan Trail Ride is Thursday

As local officials and volunteers continue to work on securing funding to complete the Paul Bunyan Trail, they will gather on Thursday to celebrate what they already have accomplished.

The third annual Paul Bunyan Trail Ride begins at 1:30 p.m. Thursday with a press conference outside the Bemidji Pioneer before the ride commences. A reception and presentation will follow at Hampton Inn & Suites.

U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, DFL-Eighth District, and state Rep. Frank Moe, DFL-Bemidji, are among the officials expected to take part in the trail ride.

The Paul Bunyan Trail has been constructed in phases. Now 100 miles long, it stretches from Crow Wing State Park to Lake Bemidji State Park; 80 of the 100 miles are paved.

The trail's history began in 1991, when the first piece of property was obtained from Burlington Northern. About 1,077 acres were then purchased. Fifty miles of the trail first opened in October 1992, featuring a link from Brainerd/Baxter to Hackensack.

As pieces have been added, the trail continues to follow the original railroad line built in 1893 by Burlington Northern and abandoned in 1983, according to the Web site at Ultimately, the trail will link 16 communities between Brainerd/Baxter and Lake Bemidji State Park. It is non-motorized, except for snowmobiles. Uses include bicycling, hiking and in-line skating. The trail also is fully accessible for those with disabilities.

Trail users pass along the shorelines of 21 lakes, through pine forests, scenic wetlands, and cross bridges over streams and rivers, the Web site said.

The remaining pieces of the trail are being completed as funding is secured.

In 2005, the trail was awarded $1.3 million to complete the trail from Walker to Bemidji. Due to inflation and other costs, that money only paved the trail from Walker to Guthrie, but it did link the Paul Bunyan Trail with the Heartland State Trail, a 49-mile trail that runs from Park Rapids to Cass Lake.