Paving for the Luce Line Trail in McLeod County is again in the news as progress inches forward, this time with paving set to be done in 2015.
Since that’s the case, hopefully there’s time to make a simple modification to the project: pave only from Winsted to Hutchinson, not east of Winsted as originally planned.
Paving a trail at all is a subject for lively discussion.
History in other places clearly says that paved trails get more usage, and communities receive the economic benefit from more people coming through town and leaving some cash behind.
Certainly a paved trail is nicer to ride a bicycle on, and there’s no shortage of energetic people who ride their bikes long distances.
But I suggest another important aspect of a recreational trail is for people to experience the outdoors in a natural setting. I don’t find anything “nature-like” about asphalt.
My family enjoys hiking (glorified walking), and when we do so, we’re not looking for a tar path. As long as we can at least stay on the course, the more primitive the better.
I’m not saying not to pave the Luce Line, but Winsted is in a unique position in several respects.
For a stranger, finding the way through Winsted is a challenge because of the gap that exists. This provides an opportunity to funnel people through the downtown area, hoping to capture some of that economic benefit.
The key quirk in the paving plan is stopping at the Carver County line, when the Carver County portion is unpaved except for the far eastern end.
Anyone coming from the east will have to travel on limestone for several miles anyway.
Because of the natural break where Winsted is located, stopping the paving at the city’s west edge rather than the Carver County line is just a more sensible option.
This then gives citizens of Winsted the best of both worlds: if you want a blacktop surface, go west; if you want a more natural environment, you can get to it immediately rather than having to drive a couple miles out of town.
The stretch between Winsted Lake and the county line is one of the most scenic, peaceful areas of the entire trail. It would be a shame to disrupt that portion before its time with tar that ends a few hundred yards away.
There are two chances for this idea to succeed:
• Hopefully the DNR and powers that be will realize the value of this option and make it official.
• If not, perhaps the bids and available funding will dictate that with only so much to spend, leaving those couple miles “natural” makes the rest of the project more affordable.
So pave away in the name of progress, but at least do the segments with logical breaks rather than at artificial jurisdictional lines.