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Paynesville Press - January 9, 2002

Trail to be submitted for federal funding again

By Michael Jacobson

Jeff Bertram hopes that the concrete steps in the past year towards the development of a pedestrian trail from the city of Paynesville to Lake Koronis will help the project get the funds it needs to become a reality.

Applications for the next round of federal T-21 funds are due on Friday, Jan. 18.

The trail project applied for T-21 funds last year, but did not receive any. Bertram, who was hired by Paynesville Township to organize and spearhead the Lake Koronis Recreational Trail, points to a number of developments in the past year that strengthen their case this year.

First, the trail committee has verbal agreements for easements from two major landowners - the Lloyd Peterson family and the Paynesville Area School District. Right now, the trail committee is focusing on the first stage of the trail: getting it from the city of Paynesville to the city beach at Veteran's Memorial Park.

The trail along this route is not set yet, but is starting to take shape. It will start along the east side of Paynesville Area High School, as the school board gave verbal approval in September to using school property between the athletic fields and Burr Street for the trail.

The Peterson property would enable the trail to get from County Road 181 to Old Lake Road (formerly County Road 124) via a cross country route. Once to Old Lake Road, the trail will be able to follow the road, thanks to six-foot shoulders included in the rebuilt road especially for pedestrian traffic.

The trail committee is actively negotiating with other landowners to further establish this route, according to Bertram.

Second, the trail committee selected an engineering firm in December. Bonestroo Engineers, from St. Cloud, will be helping complete the T-21 application this year as well as helping to design the striping for Old Lake Road this spring. All at no cost, said Bertram, with the understanding that they would get the engineering contract when the time comes to bid work on the trail.

The pedestrian lanes on Old Lake Road really are the start of the trail, Bertram said, and would not have happened except for the trail effort. Paynesville Township took over the road to help with the trail effort and later accepted the trail committee's recommendation for six-foot shoulders.

For the application, Bonestroo has walked the terrain of the first phase of the trail and will include the landscape in its cost estimates. If the initial phase costs too much, say more than $500,000, it might need to be broken into two segments, perhaps at the township hall. Third, in the past year, the trail project has gotten unanimous support from both the Meeker and Stearns county boards.

Fourth, more T-21 funds are available this year, around $330,000 worth after less than $100,000 was available last year, said Bertram.

Bertram knows that Stearns County, which has to apply for the funds for the Lake Koronis Recreational Trail, has two other projects that are requesting funds this year: paving the Lake Wobegon Trail from Holdingford to Albany and expanding the trail from Holdingford to the Morrison County line. They will know how many other projects are applying for the federal funds a couple days after the applications are due.

The T-21 funds that get awarded this year are for the construction season in 2004. Once the trail gets funds, it will have to line up matching funds that are required by the T-21 grants. The city of Paynesville budgeted $18,000 towards recreation projects in 2002 (including both the trail and a possible swimming pool). The trail also has been supported by the Koronis Lake Association, Paynesville Township, and both Stearns and Meeker counties.

Members of the trail committee met with the Department of Natural Resources and grants from them are likely once the T-21 funds are forthcoming. "Without T-21 funds we can't do much, but to wait for it is frustrating," Bertram said.

Discussion at the last township meeting noted that the township's expenses on the trail project had exceeded $5,000, the amount initially designated for it. Bertram said the decision to stop funding the trail project is not his to make, but he thinks it would be unwise to put so much effort into the trail and then quit. The grant process takes time, he stressed, to get your project known, to get "in line," and to convince the powers that be with persistence that the project will get done.

The trail won't happen soon enough for anyone, himself included, Bertram said, but will happen eventually. "Will this get done if we hang in there? Yes," he said. "Will it get done within five years? Yes. Will it get done this year? I hope so, but it's out of my control."

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