Eight years of planning, fund raising and construction came to an end this week as the ribbon was cut officially opening the 24-mile Shingobee Connection Trail connecting Walker with the Paul Bunyan Trail from the south.
Now bikers can go south of Walker and reach the Paul Bunyan StateTrail about six miles north of Hackensack. The Paul Bunyan Trail turns sharply to the west and through the Chippewa National Forest connecting with the Heartland State Trail south west of Walker.
The Shingobee will allow bikers to along State Hwy 371 on a leveler surface and along the Shingobee Bay of Leech Lake.
The Shingobee Trail also creates a loop trail between the Paul Bunyan and Heatland trails.
The initial Shingobee project was started as an Initiative Foundation Healthy Communities project with funds coming from the Lions, Rotary, Walker Area Foundation, Leech Lake of Band of Ojibwe, Leech Lake and Shingobee townships, First National Bank and Bank Forward. The development of the trail began with Phase I of the five phases, constructed and completed in August 2009 at a cost of $239,606. Phase II was completed in September 2010 with project costs of $327,662, and Phase III was completed in July 12 with costs of just over $1 million. Phase IV — the bridge — finished in July at a cost of $614,000.
Phase V involves a passage-way under Highway 371 connecting the trail with a parking lot/trail head at the new U.S. Forest Service complex. The tunnel will be constructed after Labor Day 2013.
Plans are for the Leech Lake Chamber to be located at the new Forest Service Office. The trail will then be connected via a trail to WHA School and Walker Area Community Center.