By Ivan Raconteur
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Lester Prairie residents have encountered plenty of obstacles in the path toward gaining access to the Dakota Rail Regional Trail, but the city’s trail task force had some positive news for the city council during Tuesday’s meeting.
The committee said it is ready for the city to consider taking over the lease of the trail from Carver County to McLeod County Road 1 on the west side of Lester Prairie.
It was noted that McLeod County Commissioner Sheldon Nies, who also serves on the McLeod County Rail Authority, which owns the Dakota Rail corridor in the county, drew up the lease agreement, and even offered to pay the $1 cost of the lease.
The change is significant, because part of the challenge for trail development has been the involvement of multiple agencies.
Until recently, the portion of the Dakota Rail Regional Trail in McLeod County was leased to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Any improvements to the trail had to be approved by the DNR, and generally completed by the DNR.
With the DNR giving up the lease to the part of the trail between Carver County and Lester Prairie, and the rail authority leasing this section to the city, the process should become simpler.
Under the lease agreement, the portion of the trail from Carver County to McLeod County Road 9 on the east side of Lester Prairie will be operated the same as it is in Carver County (which means no snowmobiles or other motorized vehicles will be allowed).
The term of the lease is 11 years, through Sept. 30, 2026 (the same period for which the DNR had leased the trail). The lease could be extended beyond that point.
City Clerk Marilyn Pawelk said the city attorney reviewed the proposed lease and only had two concerns.
The lease indicated the city would be responsible for liability, and the city attorney indicated the city should not be responsible for county legal fees.
The second point was the lease included a 10-day termination clause. The city attorney recommended a 30-day termination, which would allow more time for issues to be resolved before the lease could be terminated.
The council approved the lease, subject to Pawelk and the attorney working out an agreement on the two concerns raised.
The committee has received quotes for adding 4 inches of class 5 gravel to the existing base of the trail from McLeod County Road 9 to Carver County to provide trail access from Lester Prairie.
The committee will continue to seek quotes and explore funding options.
It was noted McLeod County will continue to seek Legacy grant funding to pave the trail.
Until such funding is available, an aggregate surface would allow access to the trail from Lester Prairie.