By Heather J. Carlson
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
ADAMS -- Even as supporters of the Shooting Star Trail gathered on Sunday to celebrate a new section of trail opening through Adams, officials were already thinking ahead to the next expansion.
"I'm glad to see the trail this far, and we'll be working on the trail from here to Rose Creek," Mower County Board member Ray Tucker told a crowd gathered for the trail ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Trail advocates, local officials and state lawmakers gathered in Adams' Community Park in the midst of the city's annual Dairy Days celebration to recognize the completion of a nearly 5-mile stretch of trail from Taopi to Adams, completed last fall. The Shooting Star Trail is now 15 miles and stretches from LeRoy to Adams. Mower County is working on plans to extend the trail 5.6 miles from Adams to Rose Creek.
Trail co-chair and Prairie Visions member Gerald Meier said talk of creating this trail dates back to the late 1980s. He said it is wonderful to see that initial goal becoming a reality.
"Every time we get a segment done, we're very happy," he said.
So far, the county has received $1.2 million in funding to help make the trail happen, said Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin.
While the trail is a great source of recreation for bikers, walkers and rollerbladers, Adams' mayor said he is hoping it will bring in dollars for the city. Mayor Leroy Swanson said the trail runs through the city's downtown business district, and he has already seen growing interest in the new trail.
"You can see what it means -- a lot of people use it," he said. "It's absolutely wonderful."
The trail project has had its share of challenges. This stretch of trail ran into opposition requiring officials to use eminent domain to acquire land from several landowners to move the project forward. The next stretch of trail is estimated to cost $900,000. Rep. Robin Brown, DFL-rural Austin, said she is optimistic that funding will be available for the project through the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment dollars. Voters in November approved the amendment, which raises the state's sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent to help pay for clean-water projects, outdoor preservation, state parks and trails.
Joel Wager, an area trails supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, praised the efforts of trail supporters in helping to make the project happen.
He added, "The passion that's involved and the amount of the volunteers is second to none."