Money for trails, but none for rails?

The blufflands region and other areas of southeastern and south-central Minnesota already are a top destination for people who enjoy using recreational trails for hiking, biking or cross-country skiing, and the bonding bill signed into law by Gov. Tim Pawlenty last week will only bring more people here.

More than $4 million is headed this way for trail expansions and improvements, and that will translate into more money being spent at restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts and a variety of other tourism-related businesses in small towns and out-of-the-way places.

Given the current state of the economy, we expect many families will be considering vacations in which they put more miles on their bikes than on their cars, and that’s a good thing. There are corners of this region that even long-time residents haven’t explored, and there’s no substitute for doing so at a slow pace with the wind in your face.

Ideally, of course, someday families from the Twin Cities will be able to hop on a train, zip down to Rochester, rent bikes and be off on an adventure — while their SUV sits in the garage back home.

Unfortunately, the same bonding bill that will pave new trails did nothing to help advance the cause of light-rail connection to Rochester.



Decibel debate

We’re on board with the Rochester City Council’s decision to ban smoking and skateboarding in the newly renovated and expanded Peace Plaza.

Even without considering the clean-air aspects of this choice, we’re thrilled that cigarette butts won’t litter the area, as was previously the case. And in an area of what we assume will be high pedestrian traffic, skateboards could be a hazard to skaters, Mayo Clinic patients and anyone who simply wants to enjoy lunch or a coffee break in the open air.

But we hope there will be a little give in the rules about loud music.

Yes, the Peace Plaza is near the Kahler Grand Hotel, and we can understand that guests might not want to hear a rock band blaring away at 10:30 p.m. That’s fair. But the whole idea behind the Peace Plaza is one of gathering and celebration, and we’d prefer the possibility that an early evening concert could offer amplified music that is audible to someone who is a fair distance from the stage.

Telling performers to turn down the volume before they’ve played a single note won’t help bring new energy to downtown Rochester. Rather than setting such a "no-fun-allowed" rule at the outset, why not adopt a wait-and-see approach?

If noise pollution is a problem down the road, address it then.



Supervisor behaving badly

We suspect that when the dust settles regarding an election complaint in Eyota Township, Robert Pennington still will be a township supervisor, and write-in candidate Gary Trogstad won’t.

This election took place in the virtual shadow of a proposed ethanol plant, which Pennington supports and Trogstad opposes. Some ballots cast for Trogstad weren’t accounted for when the initial results were announced, and although there weren’t enough to change the outcome, that’s a major problem.

We prefer to believe that this was an honest mistake, that the ballots were simply temporarily misplaced. Indeed, it seems quite unlikely that anyone would go to such lengths to "fix" a township election.

We do, however, find the behavior of Township Supervisor Jim Schumann to be unacceptable. Elections, whether they involve 30 million voters or 30 voters, should be conducted with civility and respect, not profanity. Schumann’s conduct when questioned about the election results was inappropriate.

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