Officials study trail to link Moorhead, Park Rapids
MOORHEAD - Officials are working on the next steps for a 100-mile extension of a hiking trail that would link Moorhead and Park Rapids. Minnesota legislators in 2006 approved the addition to the Heartland Trail, a 49-mile road authorized in 1974 ...
MOORHEAD – Officials are working on the next steps for a 100-mile extension of a hiking trail that would link Moorhead and Park Rapids.
Minnesota legislators in 2006 approved the addition to the Heartland Trail, a 49-mile road authorized in 1974 that connects Park Rapids to Cass Lake.
But almost 10 years later, questions remain over where exactly to build the trail extension and how to pay for it.
The Clay County Heartland Task Force, which includes city, county and state officials, is working to answer those questions.
The group has met since early 2014 and come up with three possible routes for the Clay County portion of the trail extension.
The task force is holding two public meetings this week to receive input on the three options, as well as any other ideas Clay County residents may have.
The first of two public meetings will be held Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the High School Commons in Hawley. The second meeting will take place Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Community Center in Dilworth.
“As of now, there’s three alternatives and that’s something that we want the public to weigh in on,” said Dan Farnsworth, a transportation planner for the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Council of Governments, which has coordinated the task force’s meetings.
The Clay County portions of the proposed routes are largely similar from the western edge of the county line to State Highway 9. But one alternative tracks just south of U.S. Highway 10 from that point west and ends in downtown Moorhead, while the other alternatives jut south and north of Highway 10 and lead to north Moorhead.
The trail would be a boon to the region, Farnsworth said, because it would provide plenty of recreational opportunities for hiking, biking, walking, running and possibly snowmobiling. It might also spur some economic growth in the communities along its route, he said.
How the trail will be funded remains hazy. Farnsworth said he expects the state to fund at least half of the expenses of building the 10-foot-wide paved trail. He said he’s not sure what the overall cost of the extension would be.
The master plan for the Heartland Trail extension calls for a route that will extend roughly 100 miles from Moorhead through Hawley, Detroit Lakes, Smoky Hills State Forest and ending in Park Rapids, where it will connect with the existing Heartland Trail.
Though the master plan was completed four years ago, the road to completing the trail extension remains a long one.
“In reality, it will probably be decades before we see something constructed,” Farnsworth said. “Historically, trails like this are a long process of planning.”
Another issue is that “there’s just not really a whole lot of funding out there for trails,” he added.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Adrian Glass-Moore at (701) 241-5599