Glacial Lakes State Trail gets $2.6M
NEW LONDON — Jeremy Losinski was still absorbing the news Wednesday that nearly $2.6 million in state bonding money had been approved to extend the Glacial Lakes State Trail from New London to Sibley State Park.
"It's still kind of sinking in," said Losinski, who is the area supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources' Parks and Trails Division in Spicer. "I'm happy to hear that the (public works) bill was signed."
Losinski said approval of the funding won't "hit home" until the ribbon-cutting ceremony is held and he sees families finally enjoying the new trail — which he said could take three to five years.
The $2.59 million allocation will be used to build a 6¼-mile extension of the popular recreation trail.
Built on an old train line, the Glacial Lakes State Trail currently goes through Willmar, Spicer, New London and Hawick as well as portions of Stearns County.
Since 2004 there have been discussions to branch that trail west of New London to connect to Sibley State Park, which has its own set of bike trails.
In 2014 the project received $1.6 million in bonding money and a grant to purchase right-of-way property between New London and U.S. Highway 71 and to develop a route.
That process hung up when a proposed route through New London-Spicer School District property was rejected by the school board.
During a meeting last fall with multiple partners in the project, including the DNR, city, county, Sibley Park Improvement Association and legislators, an alternative route was proposed that received a favorable response from school representatives.
That plan still needs work, including negotiating with a private landowner and getting final approval for the route from the school board.
Now that funding has been approved, Losinski said that work will get pushed higher on the priority list for action.
While it's difficult to gauge the true cost of the project, Losinski said this new state bonding money should be enough to finish the project, including purchase of a 155-acre tract of farmland along Highway 71 that will become Sibley State Park property.
In 2015 that land was purchased from the DeLong family by the Minnesota Parks and Trails Council in order to preserve it for park use until the state had money to pay for it.
Losinski said engineers will now start sketching out a recreation trail across the farm property to link the Glacial Lakes State Trail to existing bike trails in the park.
Language in the bonding bill indicates a portion of the $2.6 million will be used to repair a bike trail in the park.
A key part of the project includes building a tunnel beneath the intersection of Highway 71 and Kandiyohi County Road 40 to access the farmland tract that will become park property.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation said that project will be completed next year.
"There are a lot of pieces to click into place for this trail," he said.
Losinski said he appreciates the widespread community support for the project, which helped win legislative approval for the funding.