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Skiers welcome improved trail

Lynn Maltias skis the Montebello Ski Trail Monday afternoon in Bemidji City Park. In the background is the new warming house, which is now open for public use. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

"We got new lighting system, new trails and a new warming house, sounds like a win-win situation to me," said Mark Walters, the head of the trail system for the Bemidji Cross Country Ski Club.

Walters was referring to the renovations at City Park and improvements to the Montebello Ski Trial.

City Park was the second cornerstone Bemidji park - after Diamond Point Park - to undergo a major reconstruction through the use of the city's half-cent sales tax. Aside from the expanded ski trails, the park now will boast a four-field softball complex, the Bemidji Skate Park, 18-hold disc golf course, and other amenities, such as a playground and picnic areas.

"We lost some of the trail and trees along the eastern edge but we gained along 23rd Street and the loop between the softball fields," Walters said. "In all we had a 4.5 (kilometers) of trails and we now have 6K."

Marcia Larson, Bemidji's parks and recreation director, said the ski club was involved in City Park's construction since the conception, from the location of the additional trails to the type of new lighting added.

"City crews did a lot of the work ourselves. This meant less removal of trees," Larson said. "The wet weather developed some challenges towards the end of the project."

Electricians installing the lights got stuck on the trail this fall. The lights got installed, but they couldn't fix the ruts in the trail until the ground was frozen.

"We are getting a lot of positive feedback from skiers about the new lights," Larson said.

"Everyone that's skied at night loves the new lighting," Walters said. "They are a softer light, but more directional, fantastic lighting."

Trails still will undergo more work in 2011.

"We have more tweaking to do (leveling of trails). It's not perfect, but by next fall, we'll get that work completed, plus a smoother transitions along 23rd Street," Walters said. "Then we'll have a nice little trail right in the city."

Warming house hours are: 3:30 to 9 p.m. when school is in session; 1 to 9 p.m. on vacation days and weekends; and 1 to 6 p.m. New Year's Eve.

Skiers can jump on the trail right outside the door of the warming house. The city also is working on having concessions available inside.

"It was a great group to work with and to help improve on a well established trail system," Larson said.