Students help with new Trail

Biking, walking trail embraced
By Mark Fischenich
The Free Press

Area lawmakers are considering seeking $400,000 in state funds to do preliminary studies of a biking and walking trail between Mankato and St. Peter along the Minnesota River.

The idea of a trail connecting the two cities — and connecting St. Peter to the extensive trail system in the Mankato area — has been discussed for years. But cities and counties involved are now looking at officially supporting the idea, and the North Mankato City Council signed on Monday night.

The paved trail would be a piece of a long-term state plan to build a trail along the length of the Minnesota River valley, and portions of the route are being developed closer to the Twin Cities.

“This would be a small part of that (trail system) that’s to run from Ft. Snelling to Ortonville,” said Mike Fischer, North Mankato’s city planner.

State Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, and Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, are interested in sponsoring legislation seeking $400,000 in the 2010 state bonding bill, which would fund a variety of construction projects around the state. First, they want the cities of North Mankato and Mankato and the counties of Blue Earth and Nicollet to get behind the idea.

While the North Mankato Council was unanimous in voting for a resolution of support for the legislation seeking funding for the study, cost questions arose.

“If the study costs $400,000, what’s the trail going to cost?” Councilman Bill Schindle asked.

“Something more than that, certainly,” said City Administrator Wendell Sande. “It would be a significant undertaking.”

Early estimates of the construction costs have been in the $4 million to $5 million range, said Fischer, noting that some of the proposed routes would require purchasing private property. There would also be possible wetland mitigation costs and bridges might be required in some spots.

Various route ideas have been suggested on both sides of the river, including one that would include the Le Sueur County town of Kasota. A more extensive design was completed in 2008 by a group of Minnesota State University engineering students as part of a year-long civil engineering course.

That group of 14 students designed a 10.3-mile that ran along the west side of the river from Kiwanis Park on Mankato’s north side to St. Peter’s Riverside Park. The students estimated the cost of that route, which used Highway 169 right-of-way to reduce the expense, at $2.3 million.

Local governments would not be required to provide matching funds for the environmental study and preliminary design work, Fischer said. Construction funds could be sought in future bonding bills or from proceeds of the Legacy Amendment, a special sales tax approved by Minnesota voters in 2008 to finance environmental projects including trails.




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