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|Paynesville Press - July 17, 2002|
Trail along Old Lake Road dedicated on Saturday
Upwards of 80 members of the public ventured out into the sun on Saturday to witness the completion of the first concrete step of the Lake Koronis Recreational Trail. |
Officials from the city, county, state, and federal government voiced their support at the grand opening of the trail along Old Lake Road and witnessed the dedication of the first half mile of trail to the late Richard Mathiowetz.
Members of the late Richard Mathiowetz's family gathered round the first trail marker as trail coordinator Jeff Bertram and Mary Lou Mathiowetz unveil the dedication marker to Richard, an original supporter of the trail concept for safety reasons.
The Mathiowetz family lost a teenage son to a car accident, and Richard's fear of hitting a walker, biker, or roller blader on the winding, narrow, traffic-filled roads around Lake Koronis drove him to start the campaign for a trail on the basis of safety.
"It was Richard's vision. I'm sure he's looking down today and very happy," said Mary Lou Mathiowetz, Richard's widow, and a summer resident on Lake Koronis for 30 years.
"Nobody would be here (if it weren't for) Richard," agreed Paul Osborne, a member of the Paynesville Community Club (formerly the Jaycees), who Mathiowetz approached six years ago for the trail project. "If you keep working on it, it becomes a reality. The proof is right here," added Osborne.
"Some of you who knew Richard know that when he got on a mission you weren't going to stop him. He was going to get it done," said Peter Jacobson, president of the Koronis Lake Association and publisher of the Paynesville Press. "And here we are."
After cutting the ribbon to open the trail, trail coordinator Jeff Bertram said that if Mathiowetz were there to see it he would say two things: (1) It's about time. (2) When are you going to get the next part done?
Cutting the ribbon to officially open the trail were (starting second from left) Peter Jacobson, president of the Koronis Lake Association; Jeff Bertram, trail coordinator; Don Pietsch, Paynesville Township board chairman; and Jeff Thompson, mayor of Paynesville. Holding the ribbon is ( far left) Paul Osborne, who helped start the trail project with the Paynesville Community Club, and (far right) Dwaine Lindberg, member of the trail committee.
The section of trail - in the form of six-foot-wide shoulders - on Old Lake Road is only the first step in what supporters see as a pedestrian and biking trail around Lake Koronis. In 2000, Paynesville Township took over County Road 124 from Stearns County and renamed it Old Lake Road. In the process, the county provided funds for the road to be widened and resurfaced, which was done last fall and finished this spring, by Mathiowetz Construction Company.
The trail committee has now shifted their focus to the second phase of the trail, connecting the city to Old Lake Road and the city beach. So far, two landowners have committed to having 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 and run along Burr street. The Lloyd Peterson property would provide a route from Co. Rd. 181 to the now existing trail on Old Lake Road.
The third phase is to make a scenic trail all the way around Lake Koronis, which could then be connected with the Glacial Lakes State Trail, which runs from St. Cloud to Willmar. Such a connection could help bring tourism to the area.
On Saturday, though, the focus was on the current progress. "This is a giant step," said Randy Thoreson of the National Park Service, which is helping the trail effort. "It's a testimony to all the work that's been done."
Dave Gabrielson, a Meeker County Commissioner, said, "From our county, you'll get all the support you can." Gabrielson, who lives on Lake Ripley near Litchfield, sees the need for a safe trail firsthand.
Don Otte, a Stearns County Commissioner and member of the trail committee was unable to attend, but sent a letter of support.
A representative of the Stearns County Parks Department saw the value of the trail in the amount of calories that could be burned using it. "You can eat more donuts and ice cream if you use these trails," he said.
Even with the expressed support for the trail, the key is finding outside funding for the second and third phases of the trail, so it can become a reality. The trail committee has applied for federal T-21 grants the past two years but has not received one. This winter, $365,000 was included in the bonding bill for the trail, possibly enough to complete the second phase, but the funding was vetoed by Gov. Jesse Ventura.
A representative for Mark Kennedy, who counted 22 people and six dogs on the trail on Saturday morning, thanked Rep. Doug Stang (R-Cold Spring) and Sen. Michelle Fischbach (R-Paynesville) for getting the trail funding included in the bonding bill. "It's unfortunate that our governor had to deny this project," the representative said, "but I'm sure they will be working diligently to get it included again."
Stang hopes they will have better success in securing funding for the trail at the next legislative session with a new governor.
Pat Meagher, a township supervisor and a member of the trail committee, offered his advice to those in support of the trail, 70 percent of the township population, according to a survey this spring: "I think we have to keep going, and I think everyone needs to have patience. This is not something we can just charge ahead with, so we need to have patience and perseverance."
Thoreson, whose parents have a cabin on Rice Lake, stressed the importance of community involvement to finish the trail: "If you're passionate about stuff, get people involved - things will get done."
Jeff Thompson, mayor of the city of Paynesville, said that the trail is a community effort. "When this gets completed, it'll be a tremendous asset to the community," he said.
"Twenty years from now, half of us won't be here," noted Bertram on Saturday. "Forty years from now most of us won't be here, but the trail will be, and families like ours will be able to (use) it."
"I hope everyone enjoys it for generations to come," agreed Mary Lou Mathiowetz. "Everytime I see someone on the trail, I'll be thankful."
With the first half mile of the trail dedicated to Richard Mathiowetz, the remaining portions of the trail are available for sponsorship in half-mile increments. Anyone interested in sponsoring a section of the trail should contact a member of the trail committee.
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