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Detroit Lakes, Frazee bike trail supporters want project to start next year

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If it's up to Detroit Lakes and Frazee officials (and residents), a portion of the Heartland Trail extension project will take place next year.

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"Places are going downhill, except those that have bike trails, and they are booming," former Detroit Lakes mayor Larry Buboltz said at a Wednesday afternoon meeting that brought representatives from Detroit Lakes, Frazee, Lake Park, Audubon, Becker County and the state together to discuss options and timelines.

About six years ago, he said, $250,000 in state monies was secured for the bike trail, and about two years ago, $1.5 million more was approved. While it's a good start, the project will likely cost about $20 million total.

While those in the room have been pushing for the trail for years, Buboltz said that with a portion of it done -- more than likely from Detroit Lakes to Frazee -- it will bring even more enthusiasm to the communities.

"It's important we move ahead and start next year," he said. While there has been some bonding money allotted to the project, once it starts, it will be easier to go back and ask for more.

Pinpointing the exact route is keeping the trail from moving forward at the moment.

"I'm trying to narrow down specific lines on this map," not just have a corridor of where the trail will run, Laurie Young said. Young is the Department of Natural Resources Trails and Waterways planning supervisor.

She said so far the corridor includes coming west out of Park Rapids to Osage along Highway 34 to Country Road 47, through Smokey Hills and then to Wolf Lake, although the exact course is not certain yet.

From Wolf Lake, the plan is to come down County Road 36 to County Road 39 at the Toad Lake Store, through Amish country and to Highway 87, which would lead into Frazee.

Young said it's tough to get through Smokey Hills though, because of wetlands, terrain and patchwork land ownership.

Land ownership is what makes the route from Frazee to Detroit Lakes the easiest though. The route would run out of town and along Acorn Lake Road, and then along Highway 10 to Country Inn & Suites at Detroit Lakes. Nearly all of that property is state-owned, because of the highway right-of-way.

With the route locations though, there are always alternatives as well.

"The DNR doesn't say, 'We're putting the trail here.' Instead we work with communities and see. Actually, communities do the bulk of the work," Young said. She added that community members are the ones who know the area best and what the best route should feature.

"We're going to keep alternatives in case something doesn't work out," she added.

At Country Inn & Suites in Detroit Lakes, the trail would need to switch from the north side of Highway 10 to the south side. That issue is hopefully solved though.

"Our biggest issue is the highway crossing and railroad. We want to stay as far away from the railroad as possible," Detroit Lakes Public Works Supervisor Brad Green said.

A box culvert will run under Highway 10 and come out on East Shore Drive. There are a couple options to get people through Detroit Lakes, taking them down to the City Park, and then out of town via the trail that leads to Dunton Locks, which starts near Voyageur Lanes.

The trail will ideally then connect up to the Long Lake area, make a stop at Long Lake Park and either access Highway 10 and move on to Audubon from there, or a back-up plan is to go back to Airport Road and utilize the signal lights at Airport Road and Highway 10.

"You can put a line on a map, but actually doing it is (the problem)," Detroit Lakes City Engineer Gary Nansen said. It's harder than it looks to get the perfect route, he added.

It's also been suggested, rather than following Highway 10 to Audubon, for a more scenic route, the trail would head out of Detroit Lakes on Highway 59 North and run through Hamden Slough before entering Audubon.

"It's very wooded and nice. It'd be an excellent route," Audubon City Councilman Jeff Quam said.

Young asked that the cities provide her with a map of each city, some alternative alignments through the city and coming in and going out of the city, and then text on the history of the city and the amenities the city has to offer.

"What needs to be done before we can pound some stakes and start building?" Jeff Stowman asked.

Young said land acquisition is the next hurdle, which is already being worked on in some areas. "I think it's important to start next year so I can go to Senator Langseth and say we need more funding," reiterated Buboltz.

"The longer we wait, the harder it's going to be," Detroit Lakes Park Board member Dave Ohman added, meaning there would be more city growth to build around.

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