FARGO — The envisioned Agassiz Greenway would wind along the planned flood diversion channel and embankment for miles, with multiple recreation trails, natural areas, interpretive sites and parks.

That’s the concept as presented in a draft master plan for the greenway by consultants who laid out what they described as an “aspirational vision” that would cost millions of dollars and likely take 20 years or more to complete.

“It is a visionary plan,” said Joni Giese of the landscape architecture and urban design firm SRF, which drafted the preliminary master plan. “This master plan is very aspirational. It will take getting the community behind it and advocating for it for it to happen.”

The draft master plan was presented in a virtual public meeting on Tuesday, June 16, by the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Council of Governments, which is leading the project in consultation with the Metro Diversion Authority and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The greenway is billed as a regional attraction that would create outdoor amenities that would boost nearby property values, attract as many as 90,000 visitors per year and draw college students and workforce talent, proponents said.

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Every year, an estimated 160,000 North Dakota residents travel to Minnesota for outdoor recreation. If the Agassiz Greenway succeeded in capturing 20% of that activity, it would generate $100 million over 20 years, Adam Altenberg of MetroCOG said.

The ability to draw another 90,000 visitors every year to the metro area would generate $18 million over 20 years, he said.

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Altogether, the economic benefits from the park-and-outdoor amenities project would generate $230 million to $240 million over 20 years, according to figures presented Tuesday.

But the costs for the project are substantial, and major building likely couldn’t start until the diversion goes into operation, which is expected in 2026.

A “very preliminary” construction estimate for the 11 recreational sites along the 30-mile diversion channel is $53 million, with the costs of building trails estimated at $320,000 in the short term and $15.3 million over the long term, mostly for paving, said Giese.

“That’s the big driver of the cost for the trail segment,” she said. “The goal is for a continuous trail,” beginning near the diversion inlet on the Red River and ending near the channel’s outlet downstream.

Along the route, designers envision 11 sites or “nodes” serving a variety of recreational, cultural and interpretive roles that will be scattered along trails for walking, bicycling, running, hiking, horseback riding as well as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling and riding all-terrain vehicles.

Planned amenities include wetlands and other wildlife habitat areas featuring native plants, fishing, camping and picnicking areas, trailheads and possibly an outdoor amphitheater, with locations along the Red River as well as the Maple and Sheyenne rivers.

“That’s going to take probably over 20 years to realize the full vision,” Giese said. “That is the work ahead.”

Partnerships will be critical in developing the greenway, including the park districts in Fargo, West Fargo and Horace as well as the North Dakota Department of Parks and Recreation and Cass County, with MetroCOG as the proposed governing body, planners said.

“We see a big role for recreational clubs,” which will be key in building and maintaining the trail system, Giese said.

Urban agriculture and solar farms could generate revenues that would help maintain the greenway, she said.

Maintenance roads for both the diversion channel and embankment will be available for use as recreational trails, but otherwise additional trails and features would have to be built apart from the flood control project, Giese said.

Public comments on the plan will be open through July 10 and can be made online. To comment or learn more about the proposal, including view an explanatory video, go online to http://fmmetrocog.org/AgassizGreenway. The final version of the plan is expected by September.

Editor's note: After this story originally appeared, officials decided to discard the provisional Agassiz Greenway name for the project. Agassiz, a glaciologist, held racist views.