Dakota Rail Regional Trail progressing slowly westward
The Dakota Rail Regional Trail, which will eventually connect western McLeod County with the Twin Cities, will be completed to the McLeod County line in spring 2013.
The first phase of the trail in Carver County (a seven-mile stretch from the east county line to the city of Mayer) was completed previously.
Construction of the second six-mile section, from Mayer, through New Germany, to the west county line, was substantially completed in 2012. Bridge work and paving of a portion of the trail on the western edge of the county will be completed in 2013.
In Lester Prairie, the trail runs east to west through the middle of town. At this time, it is leased to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
McLeod County is in the planning stages for extending the development of the trail from the Carver County line west to Lester Prairie.
The McLeod County Regional Rail Authority, which owns the portion of the former 44-mile rail corridor in McLeod County, has applied for grant funds through the state Parks and Trails Legacy Grant program.
The plan submitted with the grant application would have extended the trail about two miles from the Carver County line to McLeod County Road 1 on the west side of Lester Prairie.
This could have also provided a link along County Road 1 to connect with the Luce Line State Trail in Winsted.
Howver, McLeod County’s grant applications have not received funding.
An interim step involves development of the first 950 feet of the Dakota Rail Regional Trail in McLeod County, in order to provide access from the west.
Preliminary work was completed in 2012, according to Chris Schultz of the McLeod County Rail Authority.
The rail authority has spent $13,000 to have the work completed, Schultz said.
Paving has not yet started, and won’t be done until spring.
The 950 feet of trail extends the developed portion from the Carver County line to the first road approach in McLeod County, along McLeod County Road 23 east of Lester Prairie.
Schultz said it is his understanding that the rail authority is in the process of negotiating a lease agreement with the property owner for access to the road approach.
There have also been discussions of doing minimal preparation of the trail to extend it to the East Park Estates development, which would require replacement of a small bridge. Paving has not been part of those discussions. This would simply allow access to the trail from the west.
When complete, the trail will be suitable for a variety of recreational activities, such as bicycling, walking, running, in-line skating, dog walking, and other non-motorized uses. During the winter months, the trail may be open to snowmobile use if cities, townships, and the county allow this, according to the plan.
No other motor vehicles will be allowed on the trail. Equestrian use will also be prohibited, because demand is low, and because the trail is near the Luce Line horse trail.