Upper Mississippi refuge: Fireworks are not permitted

WINONA — With the Fourth of July approaching, the Upper Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Refuge managers are reminding people that fireworks are not allowed on the refuge because they disturb the wildlife and leave behind litter than can impact the ecosystem.

"The abrupt lights and sounds are often seen as a threat by nesting bald eagles and easily startle great blue herons and other nesting birds," said Mary Stefanski, the Winona district manager for the refuge. "The shock of fireworks can cause wildlife to flee, ending up in unexpected areas or roadways, flying into buildings and other obstacles, and even abandoning nests, leaving young vulnerable to predators."

Additionally, the litter from firecrackers, bottle rockets and other explosives can be choking hazards for wildlife and may be toxic if ingested.

The refuge includes most islands and beaches on the Mississippi River from Wabasha to Rock Island, Ill. If you are not sure if you will be within the refuge, contact the Winona office at (507) 454-7351 or check the maps located at www.fws.gov/refuge/upper_mississippi_river.

Online classes for home buyers available through SEMMCHRA

SEMMCHRA,the regional housing agency, is offering its first-time home buyer classes online through the end of the year.

To participate, people must register for the online classes either at www.semmchra.org or by contacting Tressa at (651) 565-2638, ext. 204, or tsauke@semmchra.org. The schedule of classes is available on the website. Participants can choose from classes held on two weeknights from 5:30-10 p.m. or on two consecutive Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Participants must attend both 4 1/2-hour class sessions to earn a certificate. The cost of the class is $25 and preregistration is required.

Highway 63 bridge and realignment project enters final phase

RED WING — Lanes U.S. 63 will be closed starting Tuesday or Wednesday as crews begin the final grading and improvement on the highway as it enters Red Wing from the new Eisenhower Bridge of Valor.

The grading work will be from the Highway 63 buttonhook ramp into downtown Red Wing. The lane closures will switch to where the northbound lanes are closed and traffic is shifted to single lanes in each direction in the southbound lanes, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

The $63.4 million Highway 63 bridge construction project is scheduled to be completed Aug. 20.

SMIF offering grants to deal with COVID-19 economic impacts

OWATONNA — Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation is accepting applications for its Small Town Grants: COVID-19 Response Program from now through July 30.

Requests of up to $10,000 will be considered to help towns with populations of 10,000 or less in SMIF’s 20-county region respond and recover from the hardships created by the COVID-19 crisis and the effects on the community. Requests will be prioritized for projects that address a community issue that was created by COVID-19 and supports vulnerable community members. Requests will also be prioritized for projects that address economic gaps, educational gaps or racial inequities that were manifested or made worse by the current crisis.

“We hope that this grant will support small towns in addressing the critical needs they are currently facing,” said Tim Penny, President and CEO of SMIF.

Applications are due to SMIF by July 30, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. Awards will be made in mid-August, 2020. For the application and guidelines, visit www.smifoundation.org or contact Jennifer Heien, Grants Coordinator, at (507) 214-7040 or jenniferh@smifoundation.org.

Taste of the Trail canceled for 2020

Root River Trail Towns, a nonprofit organization that hosts the 60-mile garage sale and the Taste of the Trail, has announced that this year's Taste of the Trail event has been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event, which has been held on September Saturdays following Labor Day since 2012, features music, food and other "tastes" in towns along the Root River.

Root River Trail Towns epects that in 2021, the 60-Mile Garage Sale will be held in June and the Taste of the Trail return in September. For more information, visit www.rootrivertrail.org.