HJ/EDMarch 6, 2006

Trail open house draws large crowd

By Dave Cox
Staff Writer

More than 100 people attended the first public open house regarding the proposed Dakota Rail Trail through Carver County.

The Carver County Park Commission sponsored the event at the Mayer Community Center Tuesday to gather public input concerning the 12-mile segment of the Dakota Rail Line in Carver County.

Attendees were encouraged to ask questions and voice concerns about the project.

Surveys asking about what types of activities people would like to see for the trail were also collected.

One question that was asked during the open house pertained to private property.

Carver County Parks Coordinator Lenny Schmitz said that the proposed trail would be developed within the 100-foot wide corridor owned by the county.

The county has recently received notification that a portion of the trail has been awarded a Federal Transportation Enhancement Funding grant.

The $1 million dollar grant provides 80/20 funding to pave the proposed trail.

Schmitz said that the grant would allow the county to continue paving of the trail from the Hennepin/Carver County line.

Some people at the open house asked why the county would pave the trail when less expensive options are available.

Carver County Parks Director Marty Walsh said that an asphalt trail is actually less expensive to maintain than a gravel trail, which would be subject to wash-outs, and would require more maintenance.

Some people representing ATV and snowmobile groups said that by applying for the grant to pave the trail, the county had excluded these activities from the trail before asking for public input on the project.

Walsh said he understood their concern, but said snowmobilers and ATV users represented only part of the population, and the county was responsible for looking at all potential trail users.

Public comment is still welcome. Surveys can be obtained from www.co.carver.mn.us/parks/dakotarail.htm. Questions can be directed to Walsh at (952) 466-5250.

Background

The Dakota Rail line is a 44-mile rail corridor that extends from Wayzata, along the north shore of Lake Minnetonka, past Lake Waconia to Hutchinson.

The Carver County Regional Railroad Authority authorized purchase of the Dakota Rail Line in Carver County in 2001.

The acquisition was part of an on-going partnership between Carver, Hennepin, and McLeod County Regional Railroad Authorities, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The purpose of the acquisition is to preserve the former rail line for future transportation uses, including bicycle and pedestrian uses.

The operations, maintenance, and regional trail planning for the former Dakota Rail line in Carver County has been assigned to the county parks department.

The next step

The county is currently working with SRF Consulting Group to develop a draft master plan for the project.

The final design will address operations, maintenance, natural resource management, and trail design.

Another open house for public comment will be held once the draft master plan is complete.


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