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Paynesville Press - July 10, 2002

Trail open house to be held on Saturday

By Ryan Flanders and Michael Jacobson

Lake Koronis Trail The first phase of the Lake Koronis Recreational Trail - six-foot wide pedestrian lanes - have been added to both sides of Old Lake Road in Paynesville Township.

The road, which was widened and paved last fall and then given a second coat of tar and lined this spring, is the first finished product in the four-year trail effort.

"This first phase shows that we are committed," said Jeff Bertram, chairman of the trail committee.

The public is invited to a trail dedication and open house on Saturday, July 13. A program will be held at 11 a.m. at the Highline Construction building near the west intersection of Highway 55 and Old Lake Road.

A lunch and open house will follow the program. Officials from the county, state, and federal government are expected to be present, said Bertram.

The open house will cover the details of what the trail committee is currently doing as well as allow for public input, said Bertram.

The first half mile of the trail will be dedicated to the late Richard Mathiowetz, who was one of the first individuals to envision the trail and was an original committee member. Dedication markers are being sold for sponsorship each half mile of the trail. Anyone interested in sponsoring a section of the trail should contact a member of the trail committee.

The idea for a recreational trail grew out of safety concerns, people wanting a safe trail for kids and other pedestrians to get from the city of Paynesville to the city beach, known as Veteran's Memorial Park and also called Van's Beach.

Stearns County included funding for the pedestrian lanes when they turned back the road to the township in 2000.

The township took over County Road 124, renamed it Old Lake Road, and widened and overlaid tar on it so it could be part of the trail from the city to the beach. Old Lake Road, though, runs a couple miles along the northeast shore of Lake Koronis, intersects with Highway 55 in two places, and will serve as a pedestrian trail far beyond the city beach.

With a trail along Old Lake Road in place, the trail committee is focusing on the second phase of the trail, connecting the city to Old Lake Road and the city beach. So far, the trail committee has two commitments from landowners to put the trail on their property: the school district and the Lloyd Peterson family. The trail would begin on the eastern edge of the high school property, running along Burr Street. The Lloyd Peterson property would provide a route from Co. Rd. 181 to the now existing trail on Old Lake Road.

"Nobody is exactly sure where the route will be. It depends on the support of the landowners," said Bertram.

"We hope to go off the road as much as we can," he added.

The third phase would bring the trail all the way around Lake Koronis and possibly connect it with the Glacial Lakes State Trail, which runs from St. Cloud to Willmar, though portions, like the section in the Paynesville area are unpaved at present.

Trail supporters believe a completed trail would provide a safer spot for local pedestrian traffic and help to bring tourists to the area.

While the city and township have expressed support for the trail project, outside funding is needed before the second and third phase of the trail could become a reality. The largest source is a federal T-21 grant, which could provide 80 percent of the funds. Other grants, and local funding, would be needed to cover the remaining 20 percent once a T-21 grant is secured.

Although grant requests for the project were rejected the last two years, Bertram believes the recent concrete progress, with the first portion of trail available for use, may increase chances of a future award.

In the last legislative session, $365,000 was included in the bonding bill for the trail, but this funding was vetoed by Gov. Jesse Ventura, who pared down the bonding bill considerably.

The trail committee has a summer intern from the Community Development Program at St. Cloud State University. The intern specializes in grant writing and will provide technical advice as well as work on defining the trail route.

Getting the grants for the trail in a timely manner is an important factor in Bertram's mind. "If we can't make something major happen in the next two years, we're going to have to do some rethinking as a group," he said. "I'm not willing to be involved with this for ten years."

Trail supporters - who outnumbered anti-trail people 70 percent to 25 percent, according to a recent township opinion survey - finally have something to show for their four years of work, and Bertram remains optimistic and ambitious about the future of the Koronis Recreational Trail, saying, "I expect to have a lot more done in a shorter period of time."

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