By Ivan Raconteur
LESTER PRAIRIE In an action that follows years of preparation and multiple grant applications, the McLeod County Board approved an agreement with the State of Minnesota Nov. 7 to accept a Legacy grant for the development of the Dakota Rail Regional Trail from the Carver County line through Lester Prairie to McLeod County Road 1.
The vote was 4-1, with commissioners Ron Shimanski, Paul Wright, Joe Nagel, and Rich Pohlmeier in favor; and Commissioner Doug Krueger opposed.
“It’s been a long, interesting trip,” commented McLeod County Parks Superintendent Al Koglin after the grant was accepted.
Koglin has been instrumental in working on grant applications to develop the trail, which is part of the county’s master trail plan.
The Legacy grant process is competitive, and previous applications for the Dakota Rail Regional Trail in McLeod County failed to make the cut for funding.
After being notifed the county was awarded grant funding in the latest round, the county board still needed to take action to accept the grant, which took place Tuesday.
The project will use $647,000 in Legacy funds, and a $33,000 local match from the City of Hutchinson and McLeod County for in-kind engineering services, for a total grant of $680,000.
“It’s going to be great,” Koglin said. “It’s going to be fun to start working on the design.”
Lester Prairie Community Development Coordinator Adam Birkholz also viewed the approval as a positive development. He and Mayor Eric Angvall and Councilor Tim Dahl were present at the meeting to hear the outcome of the vote.
“This is very good news for residents and businesses in Lester Prairie,” Birkholz said. “It will provide a nice amenity that will improve the quality of life for our residents, and it will help businesses attract a quality workforce.”
Birkholz noted that because the project will primarily be funded by a Legacy grant, the city will get this amenity without a major tax burden on local residents.
Birkholz also noted that paving the trail through the city will connect Lester Prairie to Carver and Hennepin counties, and bring in trail users who previously turned around where the paving stopped.
He said trail users will now have access to the city, which will benefit local businesses.
Koglin said next steps in the process will include meeting with the City of Lester Prairie to work out details of amenities within the city, such as a parking area.
There will also be discussions between the city and county regarding future maintenance.
Engineers will begin working on plans and specifications for the project so bids can be sought.
As much of the work as possible will be completed next year, Koglin said. One of the first steps will likely be replacement of the bridge between McLeod County Road 9 and Carver County. The small trestle bridge will be replaced with box culverts.
Timing of the paving may be determined by how bids come in. If bids are high, work may be delayed, according to Koglin.
Under the terms of the grant, the work must be completed by June 2020, but Koglin said it will be done before then.