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First big step for Prairie View Trail

OLIVIA — A 25-years-long effort to develop a trail linking the Renville County communities of Olivia and Bird Island may now be just a few years from happening.

On a unanimous vote, the Area Transportation Partnership board approved $600,000 in funding for the project, contingent on the local sponsors matching the contribution with $800,000.

The funding is being offered in fiscal year 2018, which gives the trail sponsors time to secure the matching funds.

The vote came Friday morning before a room full of supporters and opponents of the trail at the Renville County government office center in Olivia.

There will be a number of opportunities in the coming years for continued public comment on the trail plans, Minnesota Department of Transportation District 8 Engineer Jon Huseby told the audience.

The 4.5 to 5 mile trail would be developed on state owned right-of-way along the south side of U.S. Highway 212. It is proposed as an asphalt trail, and would be at a different grade and separated from the highway, according to information provided by Jarrett Hubbard, Minnesota Department of Transportation, District 8, Willmar.

The City of Olivia is serving as project applicant, and Renville County as its sponsor. No funds are pledged by the governmental units at this time.

A joint park board representing the communities of Bird Island and Olivia is working to develop what they are calling the Prairie View Recreational Trail.  The board is seeking a variety of funds for the local share, including state Legacy monies and grants from non-governmental entities.

Friday’s vote to approve funding follows a March 28 hearing in Hutchinson at which supporters and opponents of the trail expressed their views.

According to information presented on Friday, 35 people signed a petition opposing the trail. They voiced concerns that the trail would prove costly for the two communities to maintain; that it is not connected to any other trail; and that it could be damaged by heavy agricultural equipment crossing it.

Project supporters said they believe the trail would see a lot of use by residents, noting that no other trail opportunities are available within 25 miles. They said it would also make possible safe bicycle travel for students attending the BOLD Schools. Supporters also noted that a non-profit Friends of the Trail group exists to support its maintenance.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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