Bonding tour includes look at proposed extension of Glacial Lakes Trail
NEW LONDON — A proposal to extend the Glacial Lakes Recreational Trail from New London to Sibley State Park appears to be gaining traction.
Eight members of the Senate Capital Investment Committee toured the route Friday as part of a three-day fact-finding excursion to learn about community proposals for inclusion in the 2014 bonding bill.
Committee Chairman LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, said the five-mile extension of the biking and hiking trail is on the list of projects the state Department of Natural Resources is recommending, which he said is a “big step” in the process.
“That’s a hurdle that you don’t have to cross,” said Stumpf, adding that the Legislature had also funded the Glacial Lakes Trail project in 2010 but it was victim to then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s line-item veto.
“It’s a project that we’ve supported before,” said Stumpf. “It’s a beautiful part of the state and a lot of people come here to appreciate that beauty, so it’s certainly worthy of the funding the state has put in before and hopefully will again.”
Those kinds of comments are creating optimism.
“I have a good feeling about it,” said Jeremy Losinski, area supervisor for the DNR parks and trails in Spicer.
Losinski said the project has been community-driven and has the wide support of local elected officials, outdoor groups and landowners along the proposed route.
“It’s a community effort to have this trail,” said Losinski.
He said extending the trail would promote health, safety, education and economic vitality. “There are a lot of positives.”
The proposal includes branching off of the existing trail in New London, going through New London-Spicer School District property and then alongside Kandiyohi County Road 40 west of New London.
According to Losinski, the 10-foot-wide paved trail would be located on the south side of County Road 40, either in the ditch or farther away from the road right of way. It would not be on the shoulder of the road.
The route was selected because it would cause the least amount of impact to residents and wetlands, he said, as well as provide safety to the people who would use the trail. “We wanted to get the user off the shoulder of the road.”
The plan also includes purchasing a parcel of land along County Road 40 that will allow a segment of the trail to snake through wetlands and woods before going underneath U.S. Highway 71 in a box culvert. That will allow bikers and pedestrians safe access to the other side of a very busy highway, said Losinski.
The underpass would go kitty-corner under the intersection of Highway 71 and County Road 40.
Crossing Highway 71 and bringing the trail to Sibley Park also hinges on the potential purchase of an additional 153 acres of land along Highway 71 that abuts the park.
Negotiations are taking place with the landowners for the purchase of that property. That purchase would be separate from the bonding request for the trail project, said Losinski. “But it’s a very important piece of the trail,” he said.
Stumpf said in order for the project to meet funding standards for the bonding bill, he and other legislators will want to see how the proposed trail extension connects to other parts of the trail network and how it would be used.
He said Sibley State Park is a “hidden treasure” in central Minnesota and linking the park to the rest of the community with a recreational trail could enhance the experience of park visitors and residents here.
Sibley is one of the top 10 state parks in Minnesota for annual usage, said Losinski.
The committee on Friday also toured the Kandiyohi Area Transit in Willmar to review a request for additional garage space. Stumpf said he was impressed with KAT’s growth and ability to address transit needs in the community. Unless the growing number of senior citizens have access to transportation so that they can stay at home, rural Minnesota communities “will dwindle and the populations will go down,” said Stumpf. “It’s a huge challenge for Greater Minnesota.”
Stumpf said rural transit is important and seeing the success of KAT is “really inspiring.”
Members of the House bonding committee will be in Willmar on Nov. 7 at Ridgewater College, where they will also hear about the local projects.
A map of the proposed extension of the Glacial Lakes trial can be viewed at the link above or here.