By Starrla Cray
DASSEL, COKATO, MN Many people use the 4.8-mile paved trail that runs along Highway 12 between Dassel and Cokato, but they’re not the only ones plenty of furry, four-legged friends love to get fresh air and exercise along the route, as well.
From now until October 30, the DC Trail Board is encouraging people to walk or run on the trail with their dog, then make a contribution toward trail maintenance. Donations can be sent to: Dogs Paving the Way, City of Dassel, PO Box 391, Dassel MN 55325.
Those who donate any amount can send a photo of themselves and their dogs on the trail to the “Pave the Way - Dassel Cokato Trail” Facebook page. Names and dates should be included.
Photos will be posted on the Facebook page, and names of participants will appear in the Enterprise Dispatch.
All names will be entered into a drawing for prizes from six local sponsors. Prizes include free grooming, baskets, vet care, and more. Trail users are welcome to enter as often as they wish.
The Dassel Cokato Trail was built in 1994 through a joint venture between the cities of Dassel and Cokato, Dassel Township, Cokato Township, and the Dassel-Cokato School District.
The trail was paid for, in large part, with a grant from the Minnesota Department of Transportation. At that time, a maintenance plan hadn’t been created.
A resurfacing project was completed in October 2015, at a cost of $38,645, paid for by the surrounding cities, townships, and the school district, as well as fundraisers.
Grant money is not available for maintenance, as the 8-foot-wide trail doesn’t meet the criteria for the Parks and Trails Legacy Grant Program, which requires a minimum width of 10 feet.
Current representatives on the DC Trail Board are DC School Board Member Irene Bender, Cokato Mayor Gordy Erickson, Dassel City Council Member James Hallquist, and Dassel Township Supervisor Erhard Woetzel.
Members at-large include Dassel Mayor Jeff Putnam, and Mike Lhotka of Cokato. Ex-officio members are Dassel City Clerk Terri Boese, and Cokato City Administrator Annita Smythe.
The DC School District, the cities of Dassel and Cokato, and Dassel Township, have signed a memorandum of understanding to set aside $5,000 per year, to help take care of regular trail upkeep.
“We’re doing a revolving maintenance plan,” Bender said. “Each year, we try to seal coat part of it.”
The “Pave the Way - Dassel Cokato Trail” fundraiser is designed to help pay for larger maintenance projects in the future, such as resurfacing.
Bender said the communities of Dassel and Cokato are “very fortunate” to have volunteers who take care of some of the regular maintenance, such as mowing. She added that the trail is an asset that helps “connect the communities.”