LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Dakota Rail Regional Trail enthusiasts will have some new territory to explore Saturday, Sept. 12, when a 1.3-mile segment west of the Carver/McLeod county line opens to allow users to enter Lester Prairie.
Previously, the trail ended just over the county line, so travelers wishing to venture further west had to share County Road 23 with road traffic.
The Lester Prairie Trail Committee, which was formed in the fall of 2014, has planned an event Saturday, Sept. 12, at 9 a.m. to celebrate the opening of the trail to Lester Prairie.
The event will take place near the intersection of the trail and Pine Street, just north of the City Park in Lester Prairie. Refreshments will be available, and the police department will provide bicycle favors for children.
A short presentation will take place before the ribbon cutting ceremony. Afterward, attendees are encouraged to walk, run, or ride their bicycles in the Grand Trail Ride, which will officially initiate the new path linking Carver County with McLeod County and Lester Prairie.
The trail committee was formed to promote development of the Dakota Rail Regional Trail to allow access from Lester Prairie.
Previously, the trail was paved from the Carver County border eastward. The portion of the former rail corridor in McLeod County was rough and not suitable for walking or biking.
In 2014, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which was leasing the trail from the McLeod County Rail Authority at the time, removed one obstacle to developing the trail when it repaired a small bridge on the section of trail between the city and Carver County.
In June, the Lester Prairie City Council authorized the committee to begin fundraising efforts to pay to have the trail upgraded to a packed and leveled gravel surface.
Although this was not the ultimate goal, the committee noted this would make the trail usable from Lester Prairie to the east.
The committee’s goal for the first phase was to raise $20,000.
Donations quickly exceeded that amount, and within weeks, the committee was back before the city council, asking for permission to extend the trail past McLeod County Road 9 and into the city, ending at Pine Street.
The committee’s long-term goal for the trail is to have it paved to match the portions from Carver County to the east, and extend it through Lester Prairie to McLeod County Road 1 and beyond.
Extending the trail to County Road 1 would allow a connection to the Luce Line State Trail in Winsted, which would create a large loop for trail users.
Committee spokesperson Mary Behrens noted the Lester Prairie Trail Committee is proud to have assisted the community in the development of this trail for everyone’s enjoyment, and committee members sincerely appreciate all efforts to make this happen.
No motorized vehicles will be allowed on the trail.
There are, however, special rules for snowmobiles.
The Lester Prairie City Council has stated no snowmobiles will be allowed on the trail from McLeod County Road 9 to the east. This is consistent with the rules in Carver County. As of now, snowmobiles will be allowed to continue to use the Dakota Rail Regional Trail west of County Road 9.
The Lester Prairie Trail Committee members are:
• Mary Behrens
• Larry Burandt
• Gordon Houk
• Craig Heimerl
• Dave Klitzke
• Kelli Machemehl
• Mary Ann Teubert
• Jen Thiry