Forum Editorial: Minnesota should extend the Heartland Trail to Moorhead

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Imagine pedaling your bicycle from Moorhead all the way to beautiful Cass Lake, located in the northern woods near Brainerd, on the Heartland Trail, one of Minnesota’s recreational gems.

That could become a reality, eventually, if Minnesota leaders follow through on a proposal now before the Legislature.

Minnesota showed great foresight in 1974 when it established the Heartland Trail, which began on an abandoned stretch of railroad linking Park Rapids and Cass Lake.

The original length is built upon a former rail line, providing a gentle grade that makes pedaling a distinct pleasure, friendly to families and people with a wide spectrum of athletic abilities.

The Heartland Trail goes by a number of small towns that provide convenient stops and access to the trail, including Dorset, known for its charming restaurants, Nevis and Walker.


Trail visionaries want to extend the Heartland Trail to the west — an idea we ardently support.

There’s talk of gradually extending the trail from Moorhead to Park Rapids, beginning with a segment from Moorhead to Hawley.


The city of Moorhead recently gave its support to efforts in the Minnesota Legislature to pay for important work that will enable the Heartland Trail’s expansion. We urge legislators to support a bonding bill that includes funding requests to lay the groundwork for segments of the trail between Moorhead and Park Rapids.

The bonding bill includes money for preliminary engineering, final design and land acquisition for the proposed segment between Moorhead and Hawley, as well as money to develop new segments between Park Rapids and Osage, Osage and Frazee and Detroit Lakes to Hawley.

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It’s exciting to think that, some day, Moorhead will be linked via recreational trail all the way to Cass Lake. It would be another way to provide access from the flatlands of the Red River Valley to northern Minnesota lakes and forests.


The beauty of the Heartland Trail is that riders can tackle it in bite-sized chunks. Many riders ride a portion of the Heartland Trail, stopping in towns along the way. But those with the time and ambition can pedal the entire distance, now about 49 miles.

Extending the Heartland Trail to Moorhead would be a major addition to Fargo-Moorhead’s outdoor recreational amenities. It also would be a major enhancement of one of Minnesota’s gems.

Bicycling is not only enjoyable, it’s a great way to keep fit. So extending the signature trail would help Minnesotans stay healthy.

Minnesota leaders should show the same foresight they had in establishing the Heartland Trail decades ago by extending it so more Minnesotans can benefit from this recreational treasure.

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