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Surly Gives a Damn in Duluth, Builds Trail

Surly Brewing Co.’s charitable component, Surly Gives a Damn, completed its latest project by building a trail in Duluth’s newest park.


Courtesy of Mary Sellke

In 2010, the owner of Minneapolis-based Surly Brewing Co., Omar Ansari, decided to start giving a damn. He wanted to add a charitable component to the business, and he asked Mary Sellke to lead it. Sellke serves as executive director of Surly Gives a Damn (SGAD), contacting organizations in Minnesota and beyond to see who needs volunteer help completing a project. Its latest project took place around the end of July and called for 37 Surly lovers to help build a hiking trail in the new Quarry Park in Duluth.

The majority of those volunteers were from Duluth, which is exactly what SGAD wants. “We’re trying to do local projects where our beer goes, and get people involved in their communities,” Sellke says.

Quarry Park opened in Duluth in May 2016, and a master plan of hiking trails came with it. The city of Duluth decided this would be the ideal project for SGAD. The city supervised the SGAD crew and gave them the tools, but the hard work was done by volunteers. “We started pulling out stumps, hauling away brush, taking away rocks, compacting the soil down,” Sellke says. “It’s hard, sweaty work.”

There is now a trail from the bottom of the quarry to the top, which, with a large volunteer crew and strong work ethic, was completed in less than four hours. When it’s all said and done, Surly doesn’t plan on getting any recognition for their work on the trail. The real gift comes from knowing they’ve created something for masses of people to enjoy years to come.

The leader of the project said something that resonated with Sellke. “He said to the volunteers, ‘This is a trail that people are going to be using for hundreds of years.’ My kid, who’s 13, who came up to do the project—he’s going to bring his kids up there and say, ‘I built this.’ That’s pretty amazing.”

The full master plan of trails will take years to complete. On its next annual visit to Duluth, SGAD hopes to return to Quarry Park to see what else they can work on.

Although Surly is based in Minneapolis, “Surly Nation”—a pet name for the people who love Surly—stretches far and wide. That’s why Sellke and SGAD have worked to get people involved in their communities here, in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois.

If you’re interested in volunteering and then drinking a beer with fellow Surly lovers, check out SGAD’s website for upcoming opportunities and sign-ups.

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