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Paynesville Press - February 18, 2004

Federal funds likely for Lake Koronis Trail

By Michael Jacobson

After four years of trying, the Lake Koronis Recreational Trail appears likely to secure federal funds to connect the city of Paynesville with the city beach on the north shore of Lake Koronis.

The trail project - with the immediate goal of linking the city to the lake and the long-term goal of circling the lake and connecting to the Glacial Lakes State Trail - was recommended for a T-21 federal grant by the technical advisory committee on Friday, said Jeff Bertram, trail committee chairman and a paid consultant for the project.

The grant still needs to be approved at two other levels in the funding district - which includes four counties in central Minnesota - but Bertram was confident that, barring some unforeseen development, the trail would receive $261,189 for construction of a two-mile segment from the city to Veteran's Memorial Park.

The total cost for building this segment of the trail is estimated at $326,486. The federal grant - which would be available for construction in July 2006 - would cover 80 percent of this cost, with the local match being 20 percent, or $65,297.

"We have a lot of work before us," said Bertram, "but for right now I'm absolutely ecstatic. We did it!"

The federal grants are divided by regions, with the local trail competing with other road, transit, and enhancement (or trail) projects. The technical advisory committee recommended funding for two road projects, one transit project, and the local trail, said Bertram.

The Lake Koronis Trail Project was the only enhancement, or trail, project tabbed for federal funding among this year's allotments. Bertram attributed their success in securing funds this year to the fact that they had applied for these federal funds for four years, the longest of any of the trail applications.

Other helpful factors, according to Bertram, were that Stearns County made this trail their #1 priority for the first time this year; that the city of Paynesville and Paynesville Township continued to back the project; and that Paynesville Township had already built four miles of trail during two recent road projects (along Old Lake Road in 2001-02 and along Crestridge Road, NW Koronis Road, and Breezewood Road in 2003).

The fact that the trail had applied for four years and had built four miles of trail without federal help was very persuasive, said Bertram.

If the federal funding is approved, as expected, construction will not begin until July 2006, but this time will be needed to get the project ready, said Bertram. The trail committee needs to finalize the route, sign easement agreements with landowners who give permission to allow the trail on their property, and have the engineering designs completed.

The trail route is not entirely set, said Bertram, who has had preliminary discussions with a number of landowners. It would start on the south side of Highway 55 and run along Burr Street on the east side of the school property. Eventually, the trail would make its way to the township hall - a potential start/stop spot with parking lots for visitors and perhaps, eventually, a picnic area and bathrooms - and then connecting to the trail along Old Lake Road and to the city beach.

This section is planned as a ten-foot-wide trail that will not run next to roads, except in a few spots, said Bertram.

Bertram expected the preparation for construction would take much longer than actual construction.

When the project is done in 2006, the Lake Koronis Recreational Trail will be in a much better position to secure future funding, according to Bertram. Once this section is complete, the trail will be six miles long, giving the project great credibility. After that, the focus will shift to improving the Great Lakes Regional Trail from Hawick to Richmond, connecting Paynesville to that trail, improving the Lake Koronis Recreational Trail from Co. Rd. 181 to Crest Ridge Road, and continuing the trail around the south side of Lake Koronis, said Bertram.

The trail can apply again for federal funds, which should be easier to get a second time, according to Bertram. "They've already stuck money into the project," he said, " so they want to see it completed."

The trail committee is also seeking funding from the state through the bonding bill expected this year from the Minnesota Legislature. Funding for the trail was included in the bonding bill two years ago but was vetoed by former Governor Jesse Ventura. The trail committee is asking local legislators to back the Lake Koronis Recreational Trail as well as improvements to the Glacial Ridge State Trail in the bonding bill, said Bertram.

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