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Ding! Ding! DL may see trolley buses next year

Pretty soon -- possibly as soon as the spring of 2008 -- Detroit Lakes residents and visitors may be able to hop on the trolley bus to get around town during the summer months.

The project began as an offshoot of the Chamber of Commerce "Catch the Wave" promotional campaign to keep tourism and commerce flowing in DL during the upcoming reconstruction of Highway 10 through DL, but it has since taken on a life of its own.

"We (the 'Catch the Wave' Committee) felt the trolley concept was so exciting as a long term project ... it would give DL an edge over the other tourist communities in the area," said Jo Johnson, who chairs the committee.

As a result, the "Catch the Wave" Committee has really grown into two groups: One that is working specifically on the trolley project, and one that is working on the Highway 10 promotional campaign.

The trolley committee has also begun forming subcommittees to explore various aspects of the project, including fund raising, marketing, trolley search, logistics and public relations.

"We're extremely excited about it," Johnson said. "Our committee has been really devoted to this project."

Though they have not yet come up with a definitive plan for the project, Johnson said the committee is currently looking at purchasing two trolleys -- one that would travel the same scheduled route around town each day, and a second vehicle that could also be rented out for special events such as a fall color tour or spring home tour.

Though some communities that have established a trolley service have applied for federal grant funding, with matching local and state dollars, Johnson said the DL group is not exploring that option at the moment.

"We decided we'd rather not have too many stipulations on how we can use the trolley," Johnson said. Thus, the committee is currently looking at raising the necessary amount through donations from local businesses and residents.

"This will not be paid for by property taxes," Johnson emphasized.

"We're going to start (fund raising) very soon," she continued. "We'd like to have this up and running by the spring of 2008."

Though other cities, such as Grand Forks, N.D., have chosen to purchase a new trolley bus, Johnson said the DL committee is looking at purchasing used vehicles.

"We think we can get a pretty good used trolley for $70,000 (or $140,000 for two)," she said. The total to be raised in the fund raising campaign would also include the first year of maintenance and operational costs.

"We already have $1,500 (in donations)," Johnson added.

The trolley service would mainly travel between local hotels, downtown retail businesses and the city beach, starting in late spring and continuing into the fall.

"The trolley would be heated and air-conditioned, with windows that open and shut," Johnson noted, in order to make traveling around town as comfortable as possible.

The trolley bus would also be capable of traveling at highway speeds, thus enabling it to be taken to surrounding communities for festival parades and other special occasions.

Johnson noted that the committee is not looking to create a service that would rival Becker County Transit.

"The trolley will not travel to requested destinations -- it will have a predetermined route," she explained.

In fact, the committee is hoping that the city and county will "get on board" with the project in the future, Johnson noted.

To make a donation, contact the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce at 218-847-9202.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454