By Starrla Cray
McLEOD COUNTY, MN After years of attempts to get the Luce Line State Trail paved west of Winsted, it looks like the project is finally about to happen.
Governor Mark Dayton signed a bonding bill Tuesday that included funding for several trail projects in Minnesota, including $1.732 million for the Luce Line.
“That is less than the $2 million we were seeking, but this is still something we can work with,” Hutchinson Mayor Steve Cook noted.
He added that the reduction won’t affect the first phase of the paving, which will extend from Winsted to McLeod County Road 115 west of Hutchinson.
The project timeline will be determined by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), but if bids are sought this summer, paving could start late summer or in the fall.
Cook said he doesn’t have an estimated completion date, but commented that once paving starts, “it really could go pretty quick.”
The DNR has already started the base prep (including the creation of a parallel horse-riding trail) and expects to be done by the end of July. Recently, the contractor they hired was working on an area in Hutchinson near Highway 7.
The cost of the prep work, $1.7 million, came from several sources. The DNR contributed $500,000, Winsted $100,0000, Hutchinson $750,000, Silver Lake $10,000, and McLeod County $500,000. The leftover money will go toward paving.
“All the infrastructure is in place and it’s ready to go,” Cook said. “That is one thing that made our project unique and compelling.”
According to the Minnesota Parks and Trails Council, this year’s bonding bill included nearly $60 million for parks and trail projects throughout the state the largest capital investment in Minnesota’s parks and trails since 2008.
Of the 12 state trail projects outlined in the legislative agenda, all but one received funding.
“Regretfully, the Casey Jones State Trail was a casualty of the political process in the final hours of the night,” the parks and trails council stated. (The Casey Jones trail is located in Pipestone County.)
Connection in Winsted
State trails, including the Luce Line, are maintained and developed by the DNR, but nearby cities often work to enhance the trails’ appeal locally.
In Winsted, for example, business owners, along with support from the city, spent $4,431 in 2009 for Winsted Byway signs. That same year, a short trail was installed in Southview Park, connecting to the Luce Line.
Now, with paving on the horizon, the Winsted City Council has been discussing ways to connect the trail through town. (The 63-mile Luce Line State Trail, which extends from Plymouth to Cosmos, has a gap through the City of Winsted.)
One option would be to route trail users (from the east) along the lake downtown, and through Main Avenue. The trail would then resume at Grass Lake Road.
“This connection forces us to go downtown, which is exactly what we wanted,” Winsted Mayor Steve Stotko said at Tuesday’s council work session.
He added that if Winsted gets a hotel downtown, the area would become a destination location.
“I’ve had a couple calls from citizens who support the idea of a hotel, and are strongly in favor of having it downtown possibly connecting it to the promenade,” Stotko said.
The next steps in the trail project will be discussed by the DNR and city representatives in the near future.
“The goal is to get it done and get it connected,” Council Member Tom Ollig said.