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Paynesville Press - April 6, 2005

Bonding agreement includes trail funds

By Michael Jacobson

The agreement reached last week in St. Paul for the bonding bill includes $365,000 to connect the Lake Koronis Recreational Trail to the Glacial Lakes State Trail and another $500,000 to start improvements of the Glacial Lakes State Trail between New London and Richmond.

The bonding bill, as now agreed between Republicans and DFLers, has not passed either the House or the Senate yet, but both bodies are expected to approve the compromise proposal and Gov. Tim Pawlenty is expected to sign it.

trail map The Minnesota Legislature did not pass a bonding bill last year, during the normal year for the state to borrow for capital projects. This compromise agreement calls for $885 million in general-obligation bonds for the state, with another $59 million in user-fee bonds, mostly for university projects, bringing the total to $944 million.

A federal grant will pay for 80 percent of the Lake Koronis Recreational Trail from Paynesville to Lake Koronis. Engineering plans and specifications are currently being completed for this section of the trail and both it and the link to the Glacial Lakes State Trail could be built in 2006.

Sen. Larry Hosch (DFL-St. Joseph) hailed the funding for the Lake Koronis Recreational Trail, which was included in both the House and Senate versions of the bonding bill. "This is a major quality of life improvement for both our Paynes-ville residents and our tourist economy," said Hosch. "I am happy to see this worthy project included in the bill."

Hosch added that he expects both the House and Senate to pass the bonding bill quickly and to send it to the governor for his signature.

In 2002, funding for the Lake Koronis Recreational Trail was also included in the bonding bill, but was vetoed by then-Governor Jesse Ventura. This time, Pawlenty is expected to approve the entire bill.

The Lake Koronis Recreational Trail now has federal funding (80 percent, with a 20 percent local match) to build a new section of trail from the city of Paynesville to Veteran's Memorial Park on Lake Koronis, and it will have state funding to connect the city to the Glacial Lakes State Trail.

With both sections, four miles of trail could be added in 2006 to the four existing miles of trail, said Jeff Bertram, who chairs the Lake Koronis Recreational Trail Committee. "I am so excited about this," he said a day after the bonding bill agreement was reached, including funds for the local trails.

"This is five years in the making," he added.

SEH, the city engineers, are currently working on design and specifications for the trail from the city to the city beach, said Bertram. One of their first steps is to get the legal description of the area needed in order to sign formal agreements with the ten landowners who have allowed the trail to run across their land, including the school district and the golf course.

Federal requirements, for the T-21 grant, are greater than state requirements for the bonding money, said Bertram, a former legislator. Their hope is to be able to construct both sections of the trail at the same time in 2006, added Bertram.

SEH - which has agreed to do the engineering for this second section for free, according to Bertram - should have the specs and plans for the trail completed by the end of the year, which would allow the project to be bid over the winter with construction starting in the spring of 2006.

The bonding money should be available after July 1, 2005, while the T-21 grant will not be available until July 1, 2006, said Bertram. Actual construction could start before July 2006, he added.

The route of the trail from the city to the city beach is set. It will start at the junction of Burr Street and Highway 55 and run on school property to the end of Burr Street. Then it will turn east and run along golf course property before crossing property owned by Bob Stoneburner in Paynesville Township. It will cross property owned by Mary Hahn and Adrean Louis to get to Hillside Court and then will follow Koronis Drive, running on Kevin Wall's land, to get to Co. Rd. 181.

Running alongside Co. Rd. 181, easements will be needed from Barry Flanders and Leo Louis before the trail gets to property owned by the Lloyd Peterson Trust. The trail will run on Cherrywood Road before accessing property owned by Steve Peterson, which will connect the new section with the existing trail on Old Lake Road and then the city beach.

Getting the trail from the city to the Glacial Lakes State Trail should be easier, predicted Bertram, as it does not require any elevation changes and should involve fewer easements. This stretch of trail was deemed a priority by the trail committee because it wanted to have a trail in place before improvements to Highway 23 in Paynesville are made, especially if the far west bypass or west bypass were chosen. With a trail in place, MnDOT will be responsible for erecting a crossing and getting the trail safely across the highway.

From Burr Street and Highway 55 the trail will have to get to Main Street, which turns into Cemetery Road as it runs west into Paynesville Township, said Bertram. The city owns property along the south side of Cemetery Road (the old and new airport) so getting these easements should be easy, said Bertram.

This segment of trail will need to follow Cemetery Road to the county line, as the Glacial Lakes State Trail intersects Cemetery Road right near Roseville Road.

It is unclear at this point what improvements to the Glacial Lakes State Trail the $500,000 in the bonding bill would support. In the Senate version, $900,000 was included to improve this trail from New London to Richmond, but this was reduced to the $500,000 in the House version in the bonding bill agreement.

Appropriations to improve the Glacial Lakes State Trail will likely be sought in future bonding bills, said an aide to Sen. Dean Johnson (DFL-Willmar), the Senate Majority Leader who proposed the bonding money for the Glacial Lakes State Trail this year.

The next step for the Lake Koronis Trail Committee, according to Bertram, is to decide on which section of the trail to focus on next. In addition to preparing for the construction of these two new sections, the committee needs to start thinking about which section to tackle next, said Bertram.

At least three sections remain: getting from Old Lake Road (where the township built the first section of trail in 2001-02) across the five-mile bridge and along Highways 4 and 55 to Co. Rd. 20; going along the south side of the lake along Co. Rd. 20; and connecting the trail along Crestridge Road and NW Koronis Road (built by the township in 2003) to the new trail going from the city to the city beach.

These two sections of the trail completed by the township were instrumental in getting federal and state funding for the trail, Bertram said. Without the township's foresight, not only in building these sections of trails but in forming a committee, the trail would never have become a reality, said Bertram, who also praised the city for being so supportive since the start.

Once the next section has been identified, the trail committee will also have to identify a funding source for it. Bertram suggested that they may try for a federal grant again first before seeking more bonding money from the state.

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