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Twenty ways to enjoy the Greenway

It's summer. It's kind of hot. And gas prices are kind of ridiculous. How can you get away from it all on the cheap? Try the Greenway in Grand Forks-East Grand Forks. It's full of things to do, from exploring old trails on a mountain bike to watc...

It's summer. It's kind of hot. And gas prices are kind of ridiculous. How can you get away from it all on the cheap?

Try the Greenway in Grand Forks-East Grand Forks. It's full of things to do, from exploring old trails on a mountain bike to watching wildlife from a canoe to hanging out with your best friend at the dog park.

And, heck, if you're a local taxpayer, you're already paying for it.

If you took all the parks and trails of the Grand Cities' Greenway system and counted them as one, they'd make for a park more than double the size of New York City's Central Park.

Here, in a small community of 63,200, there's 1,500 square feet of Greenway for every person.


And what variety of greenery there is.

In the parks, the grass is mowed and the parking lots a short walk away. Connecting them are paved trails abuzz with activities and overgrown wild areas where few wander. In the middle of it all are the bars and restaurants of downtown.

The Greenway doesn't fall short when it comes to things to do either; some you can enjoy for an hour, some you can enjoy for a day.

Here are the ones we know about:

1. Shoot the rapids in a kayak.

The "rapids" are the dams on the Red River and the Red Lake River. When the river level is high enough, kayakers have been known to practice going over them. Aaron Kennedy, a UND graduate student and kayaking enthusiast, said the turbulent water challenges his balance.

For those who don't enjoy repeated dunkings, paddling up and down the rivers can be a treat, too. Kennedy usually starts by going upstream, the toughest part, before floating back downstream.

"There's a misconception that the Red River, especially, is dirty or something," Kennedy said. "I talk to people on shore, and they ask, 'Isn't the water dirty?' It just has a lot of sediments."


Don't have a kayak? UND's Lifetime Sports Center has one to rent for $15 a day, life jackets included. For info, call (701) 777-3981.

2. Play tennis or any number of sports throughout the Greenway.

At Riverside Park, you can play softball, basketball and tennis. At Lincoln Park, you can play sand volleyball. There are sports fields at LaFave and O'Leary parks.

The Greenway links up with two golf courses -- nine holes at Lincoln and 18 holes at Valley.

3. Camp out.

If the old backyard is too tame and campgrounds further out of town too primitive, the Red River State Recreation Area just northwest of downtown East Grand Forks is an option. You can hike the trails by day and hit the bars by night. There are even showers and flush toilets.

The cost is $16 a night. Make reservations by phone at: (866) 85PARKS.

To those tempted to rough it on other parts of the Greenway, be warned. It's illegal to camp anywhere but in a designated campsite.


4. Take a refreshing dip in the pool.

The East Grand Forks pool, on a trail spur near Gateway Drive, is a bargain at $2.50 for kids and $3 for adults. It's open until 8 p.m. everyday during the season. Don't forget your sunscreen.

Next year, Riverside Pool in the park of the same name is expected to reopen, doubling your Greenway swimming options.

What about swimming in the river? Probably not a good idea. Sediment = mud.

5. Bring the rug rats to the Sherlock Forest playground.

Designed with the help of East Grand Forks schoolchildren, Sherlock Forest is the top playground in town. Those in the know, by which we mean the rug rats, give it high marks. On a scale of one to 10, one little lady gave it 1,000.

Why not? It's a maze of towers, slides, swings, bells, chimes, a suspension bridge and what's been described as a jail.

The playground is in Sherlock Park.


6. Get a drink, grab a coffee, see a movie -- all downtown.

Downtown boasts the biggest concentration of entertainment options in the community. Restaurants, bars, dance clubs, coffee shops, a bakery, art galleries and a theater.

Go for a leisurely bike ride on the trails, then treat yourself to a cold one on East Grand Forks' Boardwalk, where nearly every bar has a patio. We can see why it might not be wise to bike and barhop, so enjoy in moderation.

Have the kids with you? Try an Italian soda at Urban Stampede or Porpoura, on Kittson Avenue and South Third Street, respectively, in Grand Forks.

7. Grab some veggies at the Farmer's Market.

The market now is running Thursdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Town Square in downtown Grand Forks. There are plenty of farm goodies you can get: peppers, beets, eggs, cucumbers, onions, meat.

8. Watch birds and wildlife.

Believe it or not, there's lots of wildlife in the Greenway. They tend to be in more secluded places, so it helps to go off the beaten path. One place specifically designated for wildlife viewing is the Timberline Nature Area in East Grand Forks, a native prairie restored by the state. It even created an oxbow in the river to encourage waterfowl nesting.


Greenway staff has a bird checklist available online. There are various kinds of water birds, some quite colorful, and even larger birds, such as pelicans.

The checklist is available at www.grandforksgov.com/greenway/Birding%20Guide-Greenway.pdf . Beginners should find a birding guide with pictures.

9. Shoot some nature photos.

With all those overgrown wild areas, hobby photographers can keep busy. There's plenty of greenery, wildflowers and, if you've got a nice zoom lens and get lucky, wildlife.

While sunsets and sunrises offer the most spectacular images, anytime is a good time, according to Chuck Kimmerle, a fine arts landscape photographer and a UND staff member. "I hate when people say 'I only go out in the evening.' Then, you get only the same pictures."

Strong sunlight produces dramatic shadows, Kimmerle said. The flat diffused light of an overcast day is ideal for subjects with depth. The woods, for instance, can look too dark if the camera has to adjust for bright foliage and dark underbrush.

Kimmerle advises patience, too. "With photography, there is an amount of patience you have to have. Wait for the clouds to leave. Wait for the wind to die down."

10. Bike, skate or jog "the loop."


The trails in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks are connected by two pedestrian bridges, one near the north end dam and one near Lincoln Golf Course.

The total distance is 8½ miles and Greenway staff is working to put in markers at every one-fourth mile to help you pace yourself. There are some spurs and loops that total more than 8½ miles.

11. Play disc golf.

Disc golf is kind of like regular golf except with a flying disc and no green fees.

Lincoln Park has the largest course in the area, with 27 holes, 18 of them in the original design and nine new ones designed to be more challenging.

There's a 12-hole course near the Eagle's Point trailhead, as well.

Discs start at about $8 at Scheel's. If you've never played before, ask staff to help you. Different discs fly differently.

If you want to watch some advanced players do their thing first, you can catch the second day of the Forks Invitational starting at 10:30 a.m. today.

12. Hold a horseshoes contest.

There's a horseshoe pit at Lincoln Park, but not horseshoes. You can rent them over the weekend for $10 from the Park District office at 1210 Seventh Ave. S. near Purpur Arena. A $50 deposit is required. If you didn't get to the office before it closes Friday, maybe you know a horse who will lend you some spare shoes.

13. Hang out with dogs at the dog park.

The best time to meet lots of dogs is on the weekends or after work when dog owners bring their best friends to the dog park at Lincoln Park. Only dogs living in Grand Forks need licenses. Out of town dogs are exempt.

14. Enjoy the wildflowers.

Lincoln Park features a wildflower garden created by residents of the neighborhood that used to be there before the 1997 flood. But that's not the only place on the Greenway with wildflowers.

There's a large patch of black-eyed Susans near the Red River campground, for example.

Greenway coordinator Kim Greendahl said staff planted flowers at various places along the trails and near trailheads. She asked that you enjoy the flowers but not pick them.

If you want your own, you can order seeds from specialty retailers such as Prairie Frontier -- www.prairiefrontier.com -- which offers assortments native to different regions. Local nurseries, such as All Seasons Garden Center, offer the flowers in planters.

15. Paddle a canoe down the river.

Now's the perfect time to get on the water. The river level is low and the current is nice and calm, according to river guide Brad Durck.

On a boat, you can get to areas of the river that few people see, he said. "Once you get past downtown, that's where the grass and trees are natural again," he said. "It's a totally different perspective of the river versus the way most people know it from the flood."

If you don't have a canoe, UND's Lifetime Sports Center has some for rent for $15 a day, life jackets included.

Durck also offers ecotours

If you don't feel like paddling, Durck offers two-hour and four-hour eco-tours, for $69 and $125, respectively. That is if he has time off from being a fishing guide. For more information, log on to www.redrivernaturetours.com .

16. Find a quiet spot for fishing.

If there's a fish in the Upper Midwest, it's in the Red River, according to Durck the river guide. Catfish are the best known species but there are walleyes, northern pikes, crappies -- more than 50 species in all.

Those with boats can head to boat ramps at various locations throughout the Greenway: near the north end dam, southwest of downtown Grand Forks, at the Eagle's Point trailhead and at Lincoln Park.

Those without boats can enjoy shore fishing. Durck said there are plenty of quiet places to drop a line. Even busy parks such as Lincoln have plenty of places by the river where no one goes.

17. Go exploring on a mountain bike.

Just because there's a trail doesn't mean you have to stick to it. Some folks with mountain bikes have been exploring the hidden nooks and crannies of the Greenway and rediscovering old construction roads and dirt trails.

"A lot of people don't realize what's in there," said Dave Sears from the Ski & Bike Shop. He said some good places to go are Lincoln Park and down by the Point Bridge over the Red Lake River.

If you don't have a mountain bike, UND's Lifetime Sports Center rents them for $6 a day, and the bike shop at 1711 S. Washington St. rents them for $20 a day.

18. Search for buried treasure.

The game is called "geocaching." It involves one party hiding a cache or a container with some fun trinket inside and publishing the GPS coordinates of the cache. Another party then uses GPS receivers to find the cache whereupon they would take the hidden trinket and deposit a trinket of their own.

There are at least two dozen caches in and near the Greenway. To find the coordinates, log on to Geocaching.com.

19. Find a secluded spot and have a picnic.

All you need is a blanket and something to munch on, which you can even buy in ready-made form downtown.

Dakota Harvest Bakers at 17 N. Third St., for example, offers bag lunches with sandwiches and salads. Co-owner George Kelley said taking a lunch break on the Greenway has proven popular with the weekday crowd.

Asked what he'd take on a picnic, he offered two options. The simple option includes a baguette, a chunk of Jarlsberg or Gruyere cheese and a white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. The more organized option includes one of the bakery's turkey pomodori sandwiches -- turkey, sundried tomato cream cheese and tomatoes on bagels -- and a fruity salad -- romaine lettuce, cranberry and pecans with raspberry vinaigrette dressing. For the wine: a Pinot Grigio.

Amazing Grains, 314 DeMers Ave., also offers sandwiches and salads. There's also the Subway at 315 DeMers Ave. We're not sure what wine goes with that.

20. Goof off. Who says you have to do anything to have fun?

Catch some rays. Read a book. Watch the river go by, and act like you're thinking deep thoughts. Sleep under a shady tree. See how few calories you can burn.

Reach Tran at (701) 780-1248; (800) 477-6572, ext. 248; or send e-mail to ttran@gfherald.com .

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