Residents seek state money for bike trail
Amendment money could be used to extend Shooting Star
By Heather J. Carlson
ST. PAUL — As lawmakers consider how to dole out millions in new outdoor funding from a voter-approved amendment, Austin-area residents are making a case for Mower County’s Shooting Star State Trail.
The county seeks $600,000 from the state to expand the existing trail west from Adams to Rose Creek.
Ken Hartwig of the group Prairie Visions testified before a House committee on the project’s importance to the region. The ultimate goal is to have the trail go from LeRoy to Austin, he said, and one day link Austin to Albert Lea by connecting with the Blazing Star State Trail.
"It would just be a huge economic development and a help to all of our citizens in rural Minnesota," Hartwig said.
Voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November, which raised the state’s sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent. The money goes to clean-water projects, outdoor preservation, state parks and trails, and the arts. Parks and trails will get about 14 percent of the revenue. The special sales tax is expected to raise $35 million from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010.
The Shooting Star State Trail is currently 15 miles and runs from LeRoy to Adams. Last fall, the county finished expanding the trail from Taopi to Adams. Officials ran in to some opposition and used eminent domain to acquire land from several landowners.
The proposed 5.6 mile trail extension from Adams to Rose Creek is expected to cost $900,000. Hartwig told committee members the county has $200,000 set aside for the project. Land acquisition for this phase is completed.
Rep. Robin Brown, DFL-Austin, is sponsoring a bill seeking the money. Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, also has a bill that would fund the trail expansion.
Members of the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee agreed to consider possible funding for the project with trail dollars. Committee chairwoman Jean Wagenius said this project appears to fit with the goal of making sure the state’s trails connect and could be used by commuters.
Mower County Coordinator Craig Oscarson said expanding the trail would be a boost to area residents’ quality of life.
"We look at it as a community betterment project," he said. "In our county, we don’t have the luxury of lake systems like they do up north."
For more information, go to Postbulletin.com/weblinks.
Shooting Star State Trail http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_trails/shootingstar/index.html
Prairie Visions http://www.prairievisions.org/