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Prospect of new bike trails discussed by New London City Council

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Willmar, 56201
West Central Tribune
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Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

NEW LONDON -- An agreement between New London and Spicer to work together to develop a comprehensive regional bike plan is being coupled with a commitment from the local Department of Natural Resources to help develop a new trail and a promise from local legislators to get funding to build it.

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At its meeting Wednesday, the New London City Council was informed that legislation passed in the 1970s authorizes the Glacial Lakes Trail to be extended from Green Lake to Sibley State Park and eventually to Pope and Douglas County.

It order to get the existing paved trail -- which starts in Willmar and runs to New London -- to Sibley State Park there needs to be a plan and money.

The stage was set Tuesday to put that into action.

Greg Soupir, from the DNR trails division, said the New London City Council needs to decide which route the trail should take out of town to Sibley State Park.

The options include County Road 40, state Highway 9 or County Road 148, he said.

Roadblocks to the routes include wetlands and the number of front yards that have to be crossed.

He said some people are uneasy about having people bicycle in front of their homes. He said it appears taking County Road 40 to U.S. Highway 71 would have the least obstacles. It's also probably the least attractive route.

"The city of New London needs to think of where they want the trail," Soupir said.

He said a meeting where the public could provide input on a preferred route would help shape a workable plan that could be presented to the legislature for funding. He said having the support of both New London and Spicer city councils and the completion of a comprehensive regional bike plan would enhance the chances of getting money.

Representatives from Spicer were at the New London council meeting to express interest in working together on the project.

Soupir said New London and Spicer should work with Kandiyohi County to develop a regional plan for the northern part of the county.

Sen. Dean Johnson and Rep. Al Juhnke, both DFL'ers from Willmar, were also at the meeting. They encouraged the group to reach an agreement on a route to Sibley as quickly as possible so a development plan could be submitted for future bonding funds.

"We want to get your ideas on which direction you want to go in the next year or two," Juhnke said.

"The earlier, the better is what we would ask," Johnson said, adding that there is a lot of competition amongst legislators for bike trail money.

Soupir cautioned that a good dose of patience be applied when it comes to planning, developing and funding bike trails. He said the process can take years. He said, however, because the route to Sibley has already been designated as a bike trail, one hurdle has already been jumped.

Soupir said funding was approved this year to pave a different segment of the Glacial Lakes Trail from New London to Hawick. Work will then continue to bring the trail the edge of Paynesville, where it'll meet up with the proposed Lake Koronis trail. He said difficult negotiations with the Soo Line Railroad is making it difficult to get the trail extended from Paynesville to Richmond. Eventually that trail could go to St. Cloud.

The existing 12 miles of paved trail from Willmar to New London is an "asset to the community," said Soupir, but is too short for weekend cyclists to travel to and use.

Soupir also said residents on Lake Florida are working to develop a bike trail around that lake that would then go to Spicer on the shoulders of County Roads 27 and 10. He said extra-wide shoulders are going to built on County Road 10 west of Spicer to accommodate the trail.

Johnson said having a good bike trail network could boost tourism in the area. He said his hometown of Lanesboro was dwindling until a 40-mile bike trail was established there. Now, he said, the town is booming with new businesses and people who travel there to use the trail.

In other action the council:

- Reviewed a draft of their proposed 2007 budget. The preliminary budget needs to be approved by Sept. 16.

-Agreed to draft an ordinance that would allow golf carts to be driven on city streets. State law doesn't allow golf carts on streets unless cities have their own ordinance that specifically states they are allowed.

- Discussed ways to increase volunteer involvement in the annual Water Day festival. Mayor John Mack said there have been rumors that the event may be cancelled next year because too few people volunteered to help with the event this year.

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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