With the coronavirus pandemic altering procedures, the Pine Valley Bike and Run race drew nearly as many volunteers as it did riders in 2020.

The second annual race drew just six participants for the 13.3 kilometer bike ride and just two completed the 5.5K run during the event Saturday, July 18.

Those that did race, though got a taste of the trail expansion that’s been going on at the park most of the summer. Race organizer Tim Krohn applied for a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Coastal Program grant to help expand the existing 2.5-mile system to 5 miles. The original section was built using local option sales tax funds.

The trail was awarded up to $62,500 that would be matched by donations or funding from the city of Cloquet in 2019. Krohn set to raising money to help the project and defray the cost to taxpayers for the project. Minnesota Energy made a $10,000 donation and Enbridge Inc. provided $5,000 toward the expansion. Using those donations with money from other local businesses and individuals, Krohn raised nearly $30,000 for the project.

What’s more, Krohn estimated the cost of the expansion to be $125,000 — the cost of the original 2.5 mile project — but bids came in for the new piece at around $90,000. The grant will pay for half the project, but with the money Krohn raised, the cost to the city could be less than $20,000.

“Pine Valley, I think, is the crown jewel for the Cloquet park system, in my opinion, and the bike trails give us an added activity,” Krohn said. “The ski trail is a really nice ski trail. It's really good in the winter, people come and hike on it in summer. But there's just the added dimension of a single track designed bike trail that has brought out even more people.”

The work on the expansion should be complete by the end of July, according to Krohn.

While the pandemic affected the number of riders this year, those who turned out enjoyed what Pine Valley had to offer.

Krohn also showed off a new Snowdog trail groomer he had recently purchased to help keep the trails usable for fat bike riders during the winter.

Tim Krohn loads a recently purchased Snowdog trail groomer on a trailer following the 2020 Pine Valley Bike and Run Saturday, July 16, in Cloquet. Jamey Malcomb/Pine Journal
Tim Krohn loads a recently purchased Snowdog trail groomer on a trailer following the 2020 Pine Valley Bike and Run Saturday, July 16, in Cloquet. Jamey Malcomb/Pine Journal

Zeb Wehr, 18, of Cloquet, said he enjoyed the mix of cross-country, downhill and jumps the Pine Valley system has to offer. Wehr bikes over to use the system regularly from his home near Cloquet’s West End.

“I like that I can come here, and if I just ate a bunch of junk food, I can come work it off,” Wehr said.

While the number of racers was small, it drew from a wide area, with riders coming from Duluth and as far away as Austin, Texas. Jackson Willie, 15, was visiting family, heard about the race and signed up. He said he was impressed by the Pine Valley system, even when compared to the extensive trail system in bike-happy Texas.

“It was pretty fun,” Willie said as he pulled off his helmet. “I like this trail more — it’s less rocky and sandy.”