Whipping It Up on the Duluth SHT

September 29, 2020

By Lisa Byrne, SHTA volunteer

How I got involved with the SHTA

As the Superior Hiking Trail was being laid out across Duluth in the early 2000’s, I knew that I wanted to adopt a section. And I knew exactly which one; I was fortunate to live just a few hundred feet from the trail corridor, as it ran through my neighborhood.

I asked to have that section when it opened. It includes some great views over the West End (Lincoln Park), St. Louis Estuary, and Lake Superior, as well as Enger Park and Twin Ponds. It was less than 2 miles long, but included a stretch of high meadow that was full of tansy. 

Lisa, pictured during a weed whipping work event on her adopted section of the SHT in Duluth.

During my first year as a section adopter with the SHTA, I headed out with a double-edged grass shear which worked great — until I got to the tansy meadow. An hour later, I had barely made a dent in clearing the Trail and knew then that I needed power tools. 

The Power (Tools) of Partnership

So began my partnership with the SHTA in organizing trail clearing work evenings in Duluth. With guidance from the Association, I was permitted to make use of their gas-powered trimmers to clear “my” section of the Trail, and I organized a work crew to get more work done. I committed to three or four such work evenings each year, and not just for the one evening it would take to clear my section.

How many weed whips/trimmers can YOU fit in a Honda FIT?

We have always started with my adopted section, and then moved on to whichever sections the SHTA’s Trail Maintenance Supervisor tells us needs work. Often we’ve worked from 5:30pm till dusk, tacking on additional sections as needed.

Welcoming New Folks Into the Fold

I reached out to friends, all trail runners like myself, and organized crews of about eight people to weed whip and lop sections of the Trail in Duluth every Wednesday evening in June. Many of my fellow volunteers have come from the Northern Minnesota Track Club (NMTC), the local trail running organization that hosts races in the spring, summer, and fall.

The “Wednesday Night Crew” during a weed whipping work party back in 2018. Photo by Shelly Thompson.

I’ve enjoyed working with a varied group of folks over the years, with some people contributing each year and others joining in as able. We have had runners join us from as far away as the Twin Cities and every year will have someone new who we then hope to fold into the SHTA volunteer family.

This year, we continued our tradition of weed whipping Wednesday work nights with some additional COVID-19 safety precautions, such as keeping our distance at trailheads and sanitizing shared tools between use. Thankfully, this kind of work normally keeps us spread out on the Trail, so we didn’t have any trouble adapting to the new protocols from the SHTA.

A Simple reason

Why do I, and my friends, do this? To give back to the Trail that has given us so much over the years. It’s as simple as that. 

Editor’s Note: The Trail doesn’t clear itself! Each year, the SHTA hires contractors and organizes volunteers like Lisa to weed whip just about every foot of the Superior Hiking Trail. This is a critical duty we take on to keep the Trail safe, enjoyable, and easy to access and navigate. You can support these efforts by making a gift to SHTA or volunteering with us on the Trail.