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Funds for DL - Park Rapids bike path survive Pawlenty's bonding bill vetoes

Although millions of dollars were cut from the state bonding bill, Detroit Lakes' connection to the Heartland bike trial is safe.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty cut $208 million dollars worth of projects -- including school facilities, sports facilities, transit and college additions -- from the bonding bill last week.

What he did allow, though, was state trail rehabilitation, development and acquisition, including Gitchi Gami, Heartland, Great River Ridge, Gateway, Casey Jones, Paul Bunyan, and Minnesota River, for $15.3 million.

Detroit Lakes Mayor Larry Buboltz said the bill passed because of the work of Sen. Keith Langseth.

The Heartland Trail will link Detroit Lakes with Park Rapids, with the trail running along Highway 34.

The multi-use trail, which stretches from Park Rapids to Cass Lake, is 49 miles in length and was one of the first rail-to-trail projects in the United States. Built nearly entirely on abandoned railroad grade, the state trail is designed for walkers, bikers and rollerbladers in the summer and snowmobilers in the winter.

About half of the trail is paved, and the remaining half is compacted gravel and is used more for biking, hiking and horseback riding. More of the trial will likely be paved with the funding.

Along with his line-item vetoes, Pawlenty explained his rejection of 52 projects.

"It is irresponsible to exceed the 'credit card limit' that has been maintained by governors and legislators from both parties for the past 30 years," Pawlenty wrote in a letter announcing that he signed the bonding bill.

"The bill also reflected misplaced priorities," Pawlenty said later, noting that lawmakers would fund a new sheet music museum in southeastern Minnesota while ignoring his request to build a new Minneapolis veterans' home facility.

He was especially harsh on Langseth, the top Senate public works negotiator.

"Sen. Langseth seems unwilling or unable to say 'no,'" Pawlenty said. "But somebody has to be fiscally responsible."

While Pawlenty may not like Langseth's requests, people in the Detroit Lakes welcome his push to get funding for local projects. A couple years ago he pushed legislation through for funding for the Pavilion restoration and new bandshell in Detroit Lakes City Park.

(St. Paul Capital Bureau reporters Don Davis and Scott Wente contributed to this story.)