Highway department prepares to submit grant that will bring changes to the Gunflint Trail
Joe Friedrichs

Highway department prepares to submit grant that will bring changes to the Gunflint Trail

Changes are coming to the Gunflint Trail.

The extent of those changes will depend heavily on the county receiving a federal grant of $25 million. Cook County Highway Engineer Robbie Hass is preparing to submit the application for federal funding through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant program. The grant application is due Feb. 28.

The Cook County Highway Department hosted two opportunities for community members and property owners along the Gunflint Trail to provide feedback on what they would like to see happen to the scenic byway. Approximately 70 people attended the first public forum in late December. Participants included Cook County residents, Gunflint Trail lodge owners, Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway Committee members, Cook County Commissioners, and many others.

The intent of the meeting was for the Cook County Highway Department to source and utilize feedback from community members to help create a vision for improvements to the Gunflint Trail, Hass explained.

Following another listening session in January, Hass put together a priority list based on input from the public and the highway departments understanding of what the Gunflint Trail needs with regard to infrastructure improvements.

If approved, the grant could bring the following to the Gunflint Trail:

  • Corridor wide invasive species (terrestrial and aquatic) treatment and prevention as well as replanting and native revegetation efforts.
  • Intersection safety improvements at CR 55 and CR 60 along with a dedicated left turn lane into Hedstrom’s Lumber Company for southbound trucks.
  • 36 miles of roadway resurfacing. Beginning at Pine Mountain Road all the way to CR 92W and then from Cross River Pit to the end of the Trail. Hass previously said up to 95% of the $25 million federal grant would be intended for resurfacing the road.
  • Over 20 culvert replacements to better facilitate drainage and replace aging infrastructure.
  • A 4.3-mile pedestrian friendly paved shoulder through mid-trail connecting the Schaap Community Center to County Road 92. The 8-foot shoulder will have minimal to no impact on the existing tree enclosure.
  • Narrower lanes through mid-trail to facilitate slower speeds for vehicular traffic travelling through, creating a safer corridor for walkers, bikers, and rollers.
  • Trailhead enhancements to better serve our local community and those visiting Cook County to live and recreate. Enhancements include gravel resurfacing, sanitary and stormwater improvements, and interpretive kiosks to help tell the story of the Gunflint Trail.
  • Additional trails connecting new places along the Gunflint like the Seagull Campground to Chik-Wauk Museum and a short loop at the South Brule River.
  • Gateway restoration at the original library gate in Grand Marais and improvements at the current genesis of the Gunflint Trail to link people from the Northshore Scenic Drive onto the Gunflint.
  • Paving the park-n-ride lot at the Golf Course Road intersection.
  • EV charger installation at select locations along the Gunflint Trail in line with the vision of the USFS and Gunflint Trail community.

Learn more about the highway department’s plan here.

County officials will find out if the Gunflint Trail is selected for the grant later this year. To learn more about the federal funding and community engagement with the process, listen to the audio below.

In addition to changes related to the infrastructure grant, proposed housing projects near the Gunflint Trail in Grand Marais could also reshape the current look of the popular roadway. Click here to learn more.