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Tatanka Bluffs picking up speed, direction

REDWOOD FALLS -- Efforts to develop a green corridor in Renville, Redwood and other counties in the Upper Minnesota River watershed are starting to move forward at a trail hiker's pace.

Soon, they could be moving with an experienced hiker's sense of direction as well.

Members of the Tatanka Bluffs learned at their meeting in Redwood Falls on Oct. 9 that the National Park Service is including its request for comprehensive design and planning assistance in its list of technical assistance grants for 2010. It will provide Tatanka Bluffs and the Green Corridor Legacy initiative it launched with professional planning assistance in the coming year.

Randy Thoreson, with the National Park Service's Rivers, Trails and Conservation assistance program in St. Paul, will help Tatanka Bluffs identify and find the best ways to link the natural and cultural resources of the region. Thoreson joined members of Tatanka Bluffs and the Green Corridor on a tour last July that highlighted the two groups' plans for developing trails and a connecting string of protected natural and cultural resources for recreational and other, public uses.

The Green Corridor Legacy program is working in a nine-county area of the Upper Minnesota River watershed to protect critical habitat lands and open them for public recreation. Thanks to grant funding from the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, Green Corridor is working with landowners of critical habitat lands who are willing to sell them so that they can be protected and opened to public recreation.

Most recently, it was able to make possible the 182-acre aquatic management area called Whispering Ridge along the Minnesota River near Delhi in Redwood County.

The Green Corridor Legacy purchased the property from willing landowners and transferred it to the fisheries division of the Department of Natural Resources. Working with the National Wild Turkey Federation and the local chapter, the land is now available for hunting and fishing while also providing canoe access to a scenic stretch of the Minnesota River between Renville County's Vicksburg Park and Redwood County's famed Gold Mine area.

The Green Corridor Legacy is also helping make possible an expansion of Fort Ridgely State Park and its horse trail system.

Brad Cobb, program manager of the Green Corridor, said it is closing on a 30-acre parcel involved in the expansion. Its part of a 60-acre expansion of the park.

The Corridor has been able to acquire 249 acres of land to date, thanks to the 2008 LCCMR grant.

Tatanka Bluffs is moving ahead on a number of projects in the planning stages as well, according to chairman Loran Kaardal. The group originally formed to promote recreational and tourism opportunities in Renville and Redwood counties.

It will be involving citizens in the next month as plans are drafted for the Minnesota River State Trail in Renville and Redwood Counties. Chris Hettig, Renville County EDA director, said sessions are planned for a "north'' route proposed along U.S. Highway 212 in Renville County. Sessions will also be held for the "south'' State Trail route along the Minnesota River connecting Morton, Franklin and Fairfax.

Tatanka Bluffs will also be making a pitch for a 28-mile, "Chief Sleepy Eye'' trail to connect Fort Ridgely and Sleepy Eye when members of the Minnesota State House of Representative committee tours the area.

Tom Cherveny

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

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