Informational meeting on county trails draws crowd

SLEEPY EYE – An informational meeting about county trails drew several dozen people to the Sleepy Eye Community Center on Tuesday.

Hosted by the Brown County Trails Association, the event was created in an effort to raise public awareness and interest in county trails. A portion of the cost could be paid for by Minnesota Legacy money.

“We won’t do something citizens don’t want,” said trails association member Tom Schmitz, who also directs the New Ulm Park & Recreation Department.

“Government is of, by and for the people,” Schmitz said. “If Brown County doesn’t want Minnesota Legacy money, it’ll go somewhere else.”

Schmitz said the three-eighths of a cent tax approved by voters for 25 years in 2008 allots $8 million a year to rural Minnesota.

Sleepy Eye City Manager Mark Kober added that that amount was about 10 percent of annual funds requested for Greater Minnesota.

Highway maps distributed at the meeting showed county roads with lower vehicular traffic counts as possible bike routes. County Highways 24, 25, 27, 21, 3, 17, 20, 10, 11 and 18 were among highways listed as possible bike trails.

The county roads would link places such as Searles, Iberia, Leavenworth, Evan, Springfield, Comfrey, Godahl and Dotson. Other trail suggestions were road ditches and road shoulders.

“Brown County has many interesting sites and attractions plus lots of agricultural and private land,” Schmitz said. “We’re not about imposing our will on others. We want citizens to step forward and join our association and lead it. Tell us what you want for the future. Right now, we have no plan to build new trails. If there is no interest in this, the association will dissolve and funds will go to other places like the Marshall area, which is working on a number of projects like this.”

Schmitz said Legacy funds will only go to projects that are regionally significant and fit other funding criteria.

Dean Ibberson of Sleepy Eye said trails in several nearby states require user fees, but that doesn’t keep them from being used.

“I gladly pay fees in Wisconsin to bike on their trails,” Ibberson said.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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