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Guest commentary: Check out Lake County's demonstration forest

Don't miss an opportunity to check out the recent improvements at the Lake County Demonstration Forest located eight miles northwest of Two Harbors on the Drummond Grade. With the help of the Lake County Highway Department, we've just completed constructing an additional 1.2 miles of trail. The newly completed sections complement the existing five miles of trail already constructed over the past 10 years. Though most of the older trails were designed primarily for hiking and snowshoeing, the newer trails are wider and will accommodate cross-country skiing and mountain biking.

The Lake County Demonstration Forest Committee has worked hard to make this 480-acre parcel of county tax-forfeited land a recreational destination for residents and visitors alike. At the trailhead, visitors will find two handicapped-accessible restrooms along with a log kiosk that contains an aerial photo map with the four main trails highlighted. We now have 6.2 miles of hiking trails arranged in a series of loops that are suitable for all ages and abilities. The trails course through a wide variety of forest types and include many impressive stands of white and Norway pine, aspen, balsam fir, maple/birch, and black ash. Featured stops along the trails include the Knife River, an old homestead, a relic railroad camp, an "old" gravel pit, a legal section corner, and a buried trestle at the junction of two former railroad lines.

Also found at the kiosk are two informational brochures--one on the colorful history of the surrounding area and a second one that serves as a trail guide. The Woodland Hiking Tour guide provides descriptions of 23 featured points of interest along the four main trails. Colored trail signs help to keep visitors on the right trail, and you'll always know where you are thanks to the "You Are Here" trail signs. Other features include ample parking areas, a spur trail to the Superior Hiking Trail, and multiple geo-caching sites.

The idea of a Demonstration Forest was the vision of long-time Lake County resident and forester, the late Donald D. Ferguson. Don envisioned a place where people could learn about the modern practice of forestry while enjoying and learning about nature.

Thanks to the help of many people, this Demonstration Forest is a gem to be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. Take advantage of your earliest opportunity to enjoy it!