National Park Service outreach program to help with proposed trail

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 12/27/00.

The proposed pedestrian trail around Lake Koronis has a new ally.

A representative of a National Parks Service outreach program attended the trail committee's December meeting.

Randy Thoreson works for the Rivers, Trails, Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA). Sponsored by the National Parks Service, the RTCA aids local initiatives. Its purpose is not to create national parks, Thoreson said.

The RTCA can help with technical advice, coordination, research, and grant advice. While their program doesn't have much grant money, "We can help them get connected with money," Thoreson said.

The trail committee got in contact with the RTCA through a referral by Congressman David Minge's office, said Jeff Bertram, who has participated on the committee and who has been hired by Paynesville Township to coordinate the trail project.

Thoreson's help will be appreciated, Bertram said, because there's a lot of work to be done before the trail can be built.

"Anybody who thinks you can do this overnight doesn't understand the process," said Bertram.

"It's not going to happen overnight, I know," agreed Thoreson, "but there's a lot of (ways) we can provide assistance." The RTCA's goal, he said, is "to make (the committee's) vision a reality."

Thoreson who is familiar with the Paynesville area because his parents have a lake cabin near here said he was excited about the potential of the trail and impressed by the energy and effort of the local committee.

The RTCA office in St. Paul is new, and the local trail is one of the first projects they are working with. The RTCA's criteria for projects, according to Thoreson, is "it has to be something that gets done."

The committee also may receive help from the Center for Small Cities at the University of Minnesota-Morris. Bertram said he will be contacting Congressman-elect Mark Kennedy's office to continue their contact at the federal level.

A trail around the lake would involve roads in two townships, two counties, and two state highway districts. The project could be divided into several phases. Top priority will be given to the portion from the city of Paynesville to the public beach at Veteran's Memorial Park, Bertram said.

Safety is a prime reason for the trail, but kids biking to the beach gives that segment added importance.

Before any construction begins, the trail needs to be designed and funded. Getting grant money is another high priority for the trail committee.

An application for federal T-21 funds, which could be used for construction, needs to be sent in by mid-January. These funds would be for the 2004 fiscal year. The county had to sign on to this application, which puts the local trail behind the Lake Wobegon Trail that runs between Sauk Centre and Albany. The county is also applying for grants on behalf of that trail.

"We're taking a number and getting in line," said Bertram, of the T-21 funds.

Funds for planning and engineering also are needed. The township has committed $5,000 to Bertram for spearheading the effort, and the city and Koronis Lake Association have committed contributions to the project, too.

The committee is also applying for funds from the Central Minnesota Initiative Foundations. "There's so much stuff out there," said Bertram. "It's just a matter of making connection and filling out the paperwork."

Last spring, the township took over County Road 124 from Stearns County. The township received a lump sum payment of $362,000 for maintenance and upgrading the road, which has since been renamed Old Lake Road. The county did include money for widening the road to accommodate the trail.

The township is planning on widening the road next summer and then resurfacing it in 2002. This will apparently be done before the trail is built.

Right now, the route of the trail is still in the conceptual stages. Ideas for possible routes are being considered, but by design no definite plans will be made until construction is much closer.

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