Conservation Minnesota

Spring 2013: Building State Trails

Photo courtesy of the MN Department of Natural Resources.

Photo courtesy of the MN Department of Natural Resources.

Communities throughout the state can attest to the economic boost state trails provide.  One of the statewide impacts of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment is the expansion of our state’s vibrant trail system to more cities and towns.  The Department of Natural Resources recently announced new trail projects across the state that will be funded with Legacy dollars.

In northern Minnesota, the DNR will complete two parts of the Mesabi Trail along the eastern edge of the new Vermillion State Park and in Itasca County.  Further west in Detroit Lakes, a bog walk is being created in a 50 acres expansion of the Sucker Creek Preserve. A new underpass near Walker will connect the Paul Bunyan and Heartland state trails.

Legacy-Pull-QuoteIn southern Minnesota the DNR will repurpose 12 miles of abandoned rail line, adding to the Blazing Star State Trail near Albert Lea. Funding will be set aside to connect Rochester’s Quarry Hill Nature Center with the city’s existing trail system.  A new trail will be created in Marshall connecting the city with nearby Camden State Park.

In central Minnesota, a grant will create a river overlook and additional facilities at one of the state’s true hidden gems, Bend in the River Regional Park.

All told, the DNR will be spending $7.49 million on improvements using Legacy Amendment funds. Minnesota voters overwhelmingly approved the Legacy Amendment in 2008 to provide funding for clean water, habitat, parks & trails, and arts & cultural resources.

Read the rest of the Spring 2013 Newsletter articles.

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Greg Jackson says:

Thanks for a great article. I’m excited to see more funding going to local trails. As a professional trail-builder with a background in resource economics, I fully support the new projects and hope to see more like it in the future.
@Tom Mortenson – I couldn’t agree more with your comment. The economic, health, and educational benefits of increased and improved trails cannot be understated. Cities that invest in basic trail infrastructure are making an indirect investment in improving the local economy through increased flow to businesses and reduced health care costs from more outdoor activity among local and state visitors.

Tom Mortenson says:

As the former County Administrator for Becker County and as a resident of Detroit Lakes I know that trails provide easily accessible and low cost outdoor recreation for an incredibly diverse group of people. Walking, running, pushing a stroller, roller blading, bicycling, horseback riding, bird watching or studying nature are just a few of the things that can be done on trails. Additionally, they also provide the disabled access to the outdoors experience making them a valuable recreational asset. The educational value of trails, such as the bog walk being created in the 50 acres expansion of the Sucker Creek Preserve in Detroit Lakes also speaks volumes of their importance in providing a unique learning environment for all generations.

One important benefit is that expansion of trails in Minnesota will also be a catalyst for economic development. There are numerous studies that lend strong support to the notion that recreational trails can attract consumers, investors and business activity.

It is my professional belief that expansion of trails will serve as an economic multiplier, improving the quality of life in all areas, and can be used as an important recruiting tool by local businesses, the chamber of commerce and public agencies to target people with special skills or talents, and encourage new and expanding businesses to our communities. It will serve as stimulus and have a direct impact on visitor spending on specific sectors of our local economy including lodging, meals, and other goods and services. However, the economic benefit extends beyond these affected business sectors and impacts increasing spending from and by their local suppliers, creating the indirect or “spin-off” effect on the rest of the economy. A third effect, occurs when income earned by employees in all affected businesses results in additional consumer spending. Fourth, it links generations by providing an additional recreational activity that encompasses all ages.

Just as the expansion of trails in Minnesota will connect our communities, its very creation will unite our citizens with trail enthusiasts, visitors, and the advance our private sector and economic development as well as our quality of life.

I urge your readers to support this important endeavor and thank those responsible.