The new Brown's Creek Trail will eventually connect historic downtown Stillwater to St. Paul via the Gateway Trail. When completed, the new six miles of converted railroad tracks will provide a scenic route down the course of a designated trout stream and its lush gorge.
So, when will Minnesotans be able to enjoy it? The answer to that question recently became clearer. Funding has been secured to build a critical bridge, clearing the way for all remaining trail development. (The entire trail is currently closed.)
Crews have been tearing up the tracks previously used by the Minnesota Zephyr dinner train since last fall. Work will start in the next few months on rebuilding two bridges on the eastern end and, later this fall, construction will begin on a new bridge over Manning Ave.
The Manning Ave. bridge is the final major project required to open the trail. When the DNR acquired the trail corridor in February 2012, there was no safe crossing over the busy highway west of Stillwater.
"Our hope is to have the entire trail developed by the end of next year but that estimation is very weather dependent," Rachel Hintzman, DNR Parks and Trails Area Supervisor wrote in an email. "If we had another spring like this spring, it might take a bit longer."
Funding for the Manning Ave. bridge was allocated by the Legislature during its recent session. The money will come from the Legacy Amendment's Parks and Trails Fund, which receives a portion of the state sales tax revenue from the 2008 constitutional amendment, and is intended to support parks and trails of "regional or statewide significance."
In a news release, DNR Parks & Trails head Courtland Nelson stated, "When complete, the Brown's Creek State Trail will offer a scenic link between the Gateway State Trail, the St. Croix River and downtown Stillwater. But while the trail is being built, we need local residents and visitors to stay off the corridor."