Building Momentum and Support for the Casey Jones State Trail
By Mick Meyers, Chair and Deb Nelson, Secretary and Government Relations Committee Chair of the Friends of the Casey Jones Trail
From visits with the House and Senate Capitol Investment Committees to securing funding to repair and expand several miles of trail, the Friends of the Casey Jones State Trail has been making significant headway over the last year. While we’re building momentum, we’re looking for community support and volunteers to help accelerate progress on the Casey Jones State Trail.
As a volunteer group, the Friends is leading an effort in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR) to turn a 100-mile vision into reality so that we can create a stronger future for our communities in southwest Minnesota.
Our current goal is to create a connected trail from Split Rock Creek State Park in Ihlen, MN to Walnut Grove, MN within the next 10 years. To do so, our volunteers are hard at work finding willing landowners to develop that trail corridor and raising funds to purchase land, complete engineering, and construct the trail. We’re aiming to complete five miles of trail each year to achieve this goal, and with your support, it is possible.
This year alone, we’ve secured $840,000 in funding from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) to rehabilitate the north segment of the Currie Loop and $700,000 in Legacy funding to complete the last two miles into Woodstock, MN. We are also working closely with Representative Schomacker and Senator Weber, who have both introduced bills (H.F. 2273 and S.F. 2177) to provide $1,049,000 for design and construction of another two miles of trail east of Woodstock. Additionally, the trail has been recommended as a priority for further LCCMR funding in this legislative session and we’re working closely with DNR to secure land acquisition funding in 2024. This fall, we met with the House and Senate Capitol Investment Committees to share the importance of the trail and request their support,
How you Can Help
While the Casey Jones State Trail has several opportunities for funding in this legislative session, we need your help to show the legislature why the trail is important to southwest Minnesota. We’re gathering letters and resolutions of support to show our legislators. We’d love to add more letters from community members, businesses, and organizations. We also need you to contact your legislators throughout the session and urge them to support funding and prioritization of the Casey Jones State Trail. It’s time that southwest Minnesota have equitable access to the recreational, health, economic, and transportation benefits of a connected state trail.
With over 600 miles of paved state trail in Minnesota, it is time that southwest Minnesota have access to more than 14 of those miles. A trail is an opportunity to grow the economy and quality of life of our communities. It not only provides access to daily outdoor health and recreational activities for residents and visitors, but it can also help attract businesses, employees, and their families to our area. And it can be an activity for you, your family, and guests to share!
We’ve developed four subcommittees (government relations, fundraising, public relations, and land acquisition) to accelerate our work and are always looking for more volunteers to help lead the way. Please join us in this important effort. For more information, visit caseyjonestrail.org or reach out to us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sample letters of support are available on the website. Our next meeting is April 21 at 11:30am and can be joined either in person at Pizza Ranch in Slayton, MN or online—please email us for the zoom link.