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Paynesville Press - July 18, 2001

Open house to share progress on Koronis Trail

By Michael Jacobson

A year ago, when he started working with the Koronis trail project as a paid consultant, Jeff Bertram thought a trail could be built within 10 years. A year later, he's sure that a trail will be built. "If you ask me today, I'd say absolutely, and it'll be done in five years," he said. "I'm very enthused by what we've accomplished."

The trail committee is planning to update the community about their progress and seek ideas for the trail at an open house on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Koronis Civic Arena. "Nobody's going to be able to say when we're done that we didn't give you an opportunity for input," said Bertram.

One activity at the open house will be for people to draw a preferred route for the trail around the lake. Bertram, other trail committee members, and Randy Thorson of the National Park Service will be at the open house to answer questions and discuss ideas with the public. A free lunch will be served.

While no dirt has been moved for the trail yet, Bertram is pleased with the work the committee has done in the last year and the progress that has been made. "This is beginning to be more than anyone can imagine," he explained. "It's amazing how much time it's really taking."

The long-term idea for a trail is to encircle Lake Koronis; to provide pedestrians a safe place to walk, bike, and rollerblade; and to link the trail with places of interest around the lake and to other trails in the area. An around the lake trail would be located in two counties, and work on the trail will be done in stages.

So far, the committee has been working on two initial phases: linking the city of Paynesville with Veteran's Memorial Park on the northeast shore of Koronis and upgrading Old Lake Road (formerly Co. Rd. 124). "I don't want to bite off too much and not get any part done," Bertram said.

The idea is to keep the trail off the roads as much as possible, using easements from landowners to put the trail on private property. Bertram has been working to secure landowner agreements to get the trail from town to Old Lake Road. He has been cautious to name any names until a route is finalized.

While the committee does have ideas, especially about this first phase, they are open to suggestions and to ideas, Bertram stressed. The committee also meets on the second Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. at the Paynesville Township Hall.

Some places around the lake are too narrow, though, for a trail to be off the road. For instance, Old Lake Road is very narrow in spots, and consequently the upgrade of this road by Paynesville Township starting this summer will be the basis of the trail. The township plans to expand the road surface and to make five-foot shoulders for pedestrian traffic. This compares with three-foot shoulders on Co. Rd. 181.

The committee has applied for several grants, the most significant of which is the federal T-21 grant. The committee applied last winter for $500,000 but, as they expected, were rejected. "The grants are this thick," said Bertram, holding his fingers a couple inches apart, "and they make you jump through all sorts of hoops and you're submitting them and resubmitting them."

Bertram described that initial application as getting in line. This winter, the committee can reapply, for construction funds that would arrive in 2005.

Four years will be needed to get the design and route ready for construction, said Bertram. Also, the committee will need to do fund raising to get the matching share of the grant. So far, the city of Paynesville, Paynesville Township, Koronis Lake Association, and Meeker County have committed money to the project.

"Once the dirt starts to move, 80 percent of the work is done," said Bertram.

Should the federal grant for 2005 be received, the trail could be built between the city and the beach. The upgrades on Old Lake Road should be finished by the end of next summer. This work would complete the first phase of the trail project, said Bertram, getting the trail 4.6 miles along the north shore of Koronis.

Then work can begin on getting the trail the rest of the way around the lake. "When we receive that first grant, that sets us up for future grants. Once the government sticks $300,000-$400,000 into a project, they're going to see it through,"Ęsaid Bertram.

Trail Open House
When: Saturday, July 21, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: Koronis Civic Arena

What: An opportunity for the public to see what the Koronis trail committee has been working on and to provide input onto the proposed pedestrian trail.

Who: The open house will be hosted by members of the trail committee: Jeff Bertram, Phyllis Conlin, Pastor Lonnie Gleitz, Mary Hahn, Karlin Jacoby, Dwaine Lindberg, Ed McIntee, Warren Nehring, Johnnie Olson, Paul Osborne, Don Otte, Tara Schmidt, Gary Swenson, and Tanya Whitcomb.

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