June 1, 2007

DNR takes over Dakota Rail corridor in McLeod County

Trail planning can now move forward

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

After three years of discussions, the portion of the former Dakota Rail Line in McLeod County is under new management.

The Minnesota DNR signed a 20-year lease for $1 per year, and will determine how the property will be used.

The agreement was finalized during a joint meeting between the McLeod Regional Rail Authority, Central Prairie Railway Association, and the DNR May 30 in Hutchinson.

DNR Acquisition and Development Specialist Kristy Rice said the DNR can now move forward with the planning process for a trail along the 17 miles of the former Dakota Rail Line in McLeod County.

“I haven’t seen the final lease, but it is my understanding the DNR will be responsible for the trail grade, and the McLeod Regional Rail Authority will control the right-of-way,” Rice said.

The next step will be for the DNR to develop a master plan for the trail.

Part of the planning process will involve gathering public opinion about possible uses for the trail, and public meetings will be scheduled to accomplish this, Rice said.

The DNR will also take into account use of the trail in neighboring Carver County.

“We would work together to make sure the uses are compatible,” Rice said.

She explained that no decisions have yet been made about what kind of surface the trail will have.

“It is a lease, we don’t own the property, but we need to do something with the existing surface,” Rice said.

Potential trail users have a variety of interests, including walking, jogging, bicycling, horseback riding, snowmobiling, and ATV use. Rice also said that there is some interest in looping the trail to connect to the Luce Line trail, possibly in Hutchinson.

Rice said no time table has been established for development of the master plan for the trail.

“Things are really still up in the air,” Lester Prairie City Clerk Marilyn Pawelk said.

The City of Lester Prairie has received a $175,000 safe routes to school grant, and Pawelk attended the meeting to get information about the trail. Pawelk said she asked if she should continue to work on a trail planned along the north side of McLeod County Road 23, or wait to see what would happen with the nearby Dakota Rail line.

“I was told to go ahead and keep working on the original plan,” Pawelk said.

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