The Stearns County Parks Department organized the meeting to see if there was interest and support in the area to expand the Glacial Lakes Trail from Hawick to Richmond and eventually to St. Cloud.
"We already have two things in our favor," Chuck Wocken, Stearns County Parks director, told the group gathered. "The state already owns the old Soo railroad corridor and the master plan was completed several years ago."
Paul Osborne, chairman of the Koronis Trail project being conducted by the Paynesville Area Jaycees, explained the concept of the Jaycee's proposal and how they would like to connect the local trail to the Glacial Lakes Trail someday.
Wocken(pictured)said tying the two trails together would be great. "The expanded scope of the project would give the project a better chance of receiving funding. The trails would link three recreation areas together: the Chain of Lakes, Paynesville, and Willmar," he added.
Wocken felt that a bigger project such as combining the Koronis and Glacial Lakes trails and connecting it to Sibley State Park, might make it easier to obtain a grant. "Multi-use trails open up the possibility of more funding opportunities," he said
At present, the Glacial Lakes Trail is paved from Willmar to New London. From New London to the Stearns County line near Hawick, the trail has a crushed rock surface.
"Our plans call for a crushed rock surface so the trail could be used by bikers, hikers, and horse people in the summer months, and snowmobilers and skiers during the winter months," Scott Schroeder, DNR Trails and Waterways manager, said. "There are extensive wetlands on both sides of the trail as well as farmland and prairie land, which would make it difficult to make a dual treadway (two trails). In many areas, there is a crushed rock trail for horse back riding and snowmobiles and a paved trail for bikers and hikers."
Wocken stressed the importance of everybody working together to make the trail possible."
"This is the year of the trail in Stearns County," Wocken said. "The county parks department is working on funding for four trails: Beaver Island Trail, Lake Wobegon Trail, Glacial Lakes Trail, and a trail from Albany to Holdingford."
Wocken said the estimated cost to finish the trail from Hawick to Richmond would be about $1 million. The trail is about 20 miles long and includes 700 lineal feet of bridging. Some of the bridges are still intact. Others need replacing.
Wocken stressed the need for legislative support. "Your local legis-lators need to carry a bill through to help make this trail a reality. The state DNR can't make this happen, Stearns County can't make it happen. You have to make it happen."
Jeff Bertram, former area legislator, said the bill can't be specific but needs to stress the need for a multi-use trail. "The bill will happen only if our legislators are willing to push for the project. You can't be misled that once a bill is introduced it will happen. It needs to be pushed with follow-up calls each week," Bertram added.
Senator Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, and Rep. Doug Stang, R-Cold Spring, both said they would carry a bill through on the group's behalf.
Stang informed the group that a bill last year limited bonding spending to about $500 to $750 million for this year compared to the $1 billion in the last bonding bill.
"Due to the lack of trails in this part of the county, we could show a need for trails. It is going to be a challenge with the governor being a loose cannon on issues," Stang added. "We'll do our best."
Wocken reminded those present he was looking for a local grassroot group to spearhead the project from the Paynesville area.
Before leaving Monday night, a core group of volunteers, representing all the groups present, said they would work on the proposed trail expansion.
Volunteers included Paul Osborne, Paynesville Area Jaycees; Mike Flanders, local horseman; Paul Bugbee, Central Lakes Tourism; Larry Mathison and Daryl Fischbach, Koronis Hills Snowmobile Club; Charlie Reichter, Richmond Country Snow Cruisers Snowmobile Club; Jeff Thompson, city of Paynesville; Bev Mueller, Paynesville Area Chamber of Commerce; Mike Doyle, Minnesota Recreation Trail Users Association; and Wilt Croonquist, Kandiyohi Economic Development Coordinator.
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