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DL lays out plan for new bike path

Detroit Lakes is planning to build a bike path from the Pavilion along West Lake Drive to the Pelican River, and on Tuesday city council members heard feedback from residents and business owners affected by the project.

City officials, planning boards and city council committees have already looked at the options and pretty much know where the paved multi-use trail should run.

But, as City Administrator Bob Louiseau said at an earlier meeting, "It's good to get feedback if there's something we've missed."

From the Pelican River (just past the bowling alley) to County Road 6, the most likely route is on the west side of the road. Curb and gutter would be added on that side only to raise the trail above street level. Without that grade separation more space would be needed between the trail and the street.

The downside is that the trail will have to cross the street, since the rest will likely be built on the beach side of the street.

From County Road 6 to Legion Road, the trail will likely be on the lake side of the street. The roadway will essentially be shifted away from the lake, allowing the footprint to remain unchanged on the lake side -- the edge of the trail will align with the edge of the current roadway.

"There are not a lot of options for this one," because of the cramped space, said City Engineer Jon Pratt.

The best way to obtain grade separation on that stretch is to reduce the driving lanes from 12 feet wide to 11 feet and move the street about 6 feet away from the lake, making room for the bike path, median, curb and gutter.

That would allow for stormwater runoff on the county state-aid road to be treated before it goes into the lake. Currently it runs right in. That would also help control shoreline erosion along the lake in that area.

The downside, of course, is that homes and businesses away from the lake would be that much closer to the street. Several affected property owners spoke against the plan for that reason, with one saying that it would put the street about 20 feet from her home.

Pratt said some trees will also be lost to the project, although the city hopes to minimize tree loss on the lake side to prevent erosion.

The city utilities department will study the feasibility of burying the power lines along the roadway, since they will have to be moved anyway.

City policy on new street lighting for roadway projects will also be followed, Louiseau said, in answer to a resident who said that section of roadway is now pretty dark.

On the stretch from Legion Road to the Pavilion, the trail would also be located on the beach side of the roadway, separated from the street by a median, curb and gutter. There would be room for two 11-foot-wide driving lanes and parking on just one side of the street -- most likely the beach side.

Several people spoke in support of using the trail to replace the narrow sidewalk that separates grass from sand on the City Beach.

That option is not highly favored, because little kids often run between the grass and the sand and could easily be hit by a bicycle.

But several people said it's better to be hit by a bike than a car, and one man said after they'd been hit once or twice they'd learn to look for bikes.

Putting a 10-foot-wide trail in that location would require a greater slope either to the grass or to the sandy part of the beach, and it could be difficult to lay a proper foundation there, Pratt said.

Wherever it is ultimately routed, the trail must meet state standards for size and safety. It will actually be part of the Heartland Trail that will run from Moorhead to link up with the existing trail in Park Rapids.

The section from the Pavilion to the Pelican River is a "high priority section" for the city, Pratt said. "A lot of pedestrians use this segment right now," he added.

Detroit Lakes has been developing bicycle trails throughout the city as opportunities arise with construction projects or grant funding, Pratt said.

The city has been working with the county, the state and other cities on the Heartland Trail route.

The DL to Frazee route has been established, and an underpass will be built under Highway 10 this fall as part of that project, Pratt said.

Parts of the trail may be open to motorized vehicles such as snowmobiles, Public Works Director Brad Green said, in answer to a question from a woman who said she does not favor motorized use of the trail.

"The city has a comprehensive park and trail plan," Green said. "Originally we started with non-motorized only, but with trails around the lake, we opened up small sections (to snowmobiles)," he explained.

They can access the Highway 10 overlook road to get to a gas station, for example, and the Highway 10 trail underpass to be built this fall would also be useful for snowmobile safety, he said.

"One of the issues is economic development," Green said. "If we could help facilitate snowmobiles in certain sections we may need to look at that, too."

On other parts of the Heartland Trail the state allows snowmobile traffic, Louiseau said.

The city council has the authority to determine motorized traffic use on the trail through town, he said.

It would likely only be allowed in small sections, as the rest of the trail in Detroit Lakes during the winter would be either left alone for cross country skiers or plowed for walkers, noted City Council member Jamie Marks-Erickson.

Electric wheelchairs and scooters are also considered motorized vehicles and must be taken into account, Louiseau said.

Council member Ron Zeman asked the standing-room-only crowd in the council chambers how many were excited about the new trail. Only a half-dozen raised their hands.

"We're here to see how bad you're going to screw up our area," one man told him with a slight smile.