River State Trail open house May 7 in New Ulm

ST. PAUL – The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) seeks public input for the Minnesota River State Trail Master Plan for the trail segment from Franklin to Le Sueur.

Public input open houses will be held Tuesday, May 7 at the New Ulm Community Center and Thursday, May 9 at the Mankato Intergovernmental Center.

A master plan for the trail is being developed by the DNR Division of Parks and Trails. Public input is sought on potential trail alignment, potential uses, trail management and future development.

No specific trail alignments have been determined and the State of Minnesota does not own any trail segments yet, according to a DNR news release.

The open houses will be informal and open to anyone with interest in the trail. DNR staff and volunteers will be available to answer questions and take comments.

The Franklin to Le Sueur segment of the Minnesota River State Trail is part of the state trail authorized in 2002 that, when complete, will connect Big Stone Lake State Park (near Ortonville), with Le Sueur.

The trail will connect to the asphalt and crushed stone Minnesota Valley State Trail in Le Sueur that continues to Memorial Park in Shakopee. Plans call for that trail to eventually connect to Fort Snelling State Park, northwest of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

The Minnesota River State Trail will also connect with the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail near U.S. Highway 14 in Mankato, that follows a signed route on city streets through Waterville, passes through three miles of Sakatah Lake State Park, and ends east of Interstate 35 in Faribault. The trail is generally level and wheelchair accessible.

The Minnesota River State Trail has potential to connect with local trail systems.

New Ulm Park & Recreation Director Tom Schmitz said some parts of the Minnesota River State Trail are completed and are heavily used by trail users, while other parts of it are in the planning stages.

“New Ulm and the New Ulm vicinity is an integral piece of the Minnesota River State Trail plan,” Schmitz said. “New Ulm is a regional hub, making it important to the State of Minnesota when it comes to this type of planning effort.”

Schmitz said trail construction will take place first on land in cities and counties with willing and interested landowners.

“We don’t know yet which side of the river this part of the trail would be on and in what cities and counties,” Schmitz said.

New Ulm resident Scott Sparlin, of the Coalition for a Clean Minnesota River (CCMR), an advocacy and action-oriented organization for those interested in improving Minnesota River Watershed surface water quality, said 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the Minnesota River State Trail.

“There are some big (Minnesota State River Trail) anniversary activities being planned in the near future,” Sparlin said. “We need to get remaining trail parts resolved. Trails can be contentious to develop. Hopefully it comes to fruition.”

For more information, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_trails/. DNR staff contacts are Planning Supervisor Laurie Young, laures.young@state.mn.us, 651-259-5638 and District Recreation Supervisor Paul Hansen, paul.hansen@state.mn.us, 507-206-2848.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com).

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