From trash to treasure: Bethel volunteers turn former dump into miles of nature trails

Many people are taking advantage of this time at home with projects around the house. In fact, a group in Bethel, Minnesota teamed up to create something for the entire community.

At least once a week for the last few months, the Bethel Trail Squad has made it their mission to keep a city park clean and well-groomed. Now, the Bethel haunted forest is ready to raise a few spirits.

“It’s the work of four or five people with trimmers and chainsaws and making a nice trail you can navigate," said Bethel City Council Member Richard Wiitala.

Since they weren't commuting to work every day after the pandemic started, Wiitala and a handful of other residents found themselves with some extra time on their hands. So, they volunteered to create five miles of trails in an 80-acre parcel of land for walkers, hikers, and cyclists to get closer to nature.

“It was pretty raw and untouched. This was a city dump at one point during prohibition. Other than being used for haunted trails that used to happen once a year, it’s probably been untouched for close to 30 years," he said.

There are still remnants of the sets from the fire department's annual Halloween tradition scattered throughout the trails, but city leaders say there's nothing scary about the fact that something positive came from the statewide lockdown that caused many to look for outdoor activities.

“Hopefully it'll bring folks to our city and put our city on the map a little more and help our businesses," he said.

Wiitala hopes to add another two miles of natural surface trails in the future.