By Lynda Jensen
DASSEL-COKATO, MN The future of the popular bike path between Dassel and Cokato appears more certain, following action by both the Dassel and Cokato city councils last Monday.
Both of the councils were visited by Karl Townsend of the Dassel Township, who apprised them of the rather dire situation of the path. Portions of the path are in poor condition, partly since sections of it were constructed in ditches outside the road work area compacted by MnDOT, when it was first constructed.
Other sections are in very good shape. From his experience in bituminous maintenance, he expressed concern about the path’s future, saying that another year of waiting would result in many sections being either rebuilt; or giving away the path entirely. It can’t wait another year, he said.
Townsend told the Dassel council that three out of five entities have pledged to keep the bike path serviceable the City of Cokato that night, Dassel Township, and the Dassel-Cokato School District; the latter of which is expected to give its formal approval this week.
The Dassel council opted to join this number that night, making it four out of five entities in favor of keeping the bike path in working order. The fifth entity that declined to participate was Cokato Township, which is where most of the path is located.
The path is not within the jurisdiction of MnDOT right of way, since the five entities signed an agreement for maintenance when the path was first constructed. The state will not contribute funds, Townsend said.
It should be noted that Collinwood Township, despite the lack of having direct frontage with the path, has committed $5,000 toward the path upkeep.
The public is being asked to make up the difference of about 4 percent. Click here for more details.
Due to the influence of Meeker County Commissioner Amy Wilde, engineer Ron Mortensen of Meeker County was willing to inspect the path without charge, and give an engineer’s perspective of its shape and needs.
This resulted in an estimate of about $89,000 for repairs, which was more than expected, Townsend said. It was discovered that the area near the Cokato golf course, near the sloughs, is in the worst shape. “We’ll need to grind that down and start over,” he said.
Townsend reported that he has been working with others for three years on funding the bike path repairs andhas exhausted many government outlets for grant funding and the like.
He’s been in contact with Sen. Steve Dille, and Rep. Dean Urdahl. “There’s basically nothing there,” he said.
Recently, proponents of the path got excited about Pres. Barack Obama’s funding for “shovel ready” projects. They spent time filling out forms at Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office without success. “I don’t believe any local government entities got that money,” he said.
Townsend proposed to have the four entities maintain 80 percent of the path, leaving out one mile of path; although this mile is in good shape, since the other entities are interested in maintaining sections closer to home. Four miles of the path will be repaired or redone.
This will amount to a cost of $20,000 each for each of the four entities, leaving about $10,000 left over.
Of this amount, Collinwood Township will kick in $5,000 leaving $4,000 for private fundraising endeavors, for those who are willing to do so.
The Knights of Columbus have pledged $500, and Rotary has been approached, as well as the Dassel Chamber.
Nevertheless, the rescue of the path is on the fast track, with proponents not wasting time to allow another winter to break down the path as it stands.
Townsend said that bids could be let as soon as Dassel gave its consent that night, with Cokato giving its approval that night as well (the Cokato Corn Carnival prompted Cokato to bump its meeting one week).
“We are prepared for this trail,” Dassel Administrator Myles McGrath told the council. “If we have the money, we should do it,” Dassel Council Member Bob Wilde observed.
Dassel Mayor Mike Scanlon, who is an avid supporter of the path, was absent from the meeting last Monday. However, a motion to approve the figure of up to $20,000 for bike path maintenance was unanimous, with council members Wilde, Bob Lalone, Pat Haapala, and Alesia Warner voting in favor.
“I am excited that the path is going to receive some much-needed attention,” Supt. Jeff Powers commented Thursday.
The school is expected to take on clerical duties and serve as the financial conduit for the project, with formal action on this subject expected this week by the DC School Board. “The school district will accept donated funds,” Powers said.
It should be noted that Cokato and Dassel have done basic planning for bike path expenses, despite tight budgets.
A joint powers agreement will be drawn up and signed among the four entities involved, which will include ongoing maintenance so that a crisis of the bike path’s condition can be avoided in future.
It has been noted in the past that if the path was left in disrepair, the expense of its removal would far exceed its repairs. Ongoing maintenance is expected to be about $1,000 per year.