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With Dayton and state House on board, bonding looks good for local Heartland Trail project

After plenty of rallying, lobbying and planning, the residents of Detroit Lakes and Frazee may soon have something big to rejoice about.

So far Gov. Mark Dayton and the House of Representatives are in support of funding for the Heartland Trail extension between the two cities.

In separate news releases, Dayton announced his support, allotting $5 million to parks and trails in his bonding bill, of which $2.5 million would be designated for the Heartland Trail project.

The two cities requested $3.1 million in funding from the state.

In the House of Representatives, Capital Investment Committee Chair Alice Hausman included up to $3.1 million for the Heartland Trail project.

“We’ve gotten indications that we’re going to be in the Senate bill. Sen. Eken is on the bonding committee, so we feel pretty good about that,” Detroit Lakes Alderman Bruce Imholte said. “We have not been to the place where we have been included in all three bills.

“We feel very positive we’ll be in the bonding bill but we’re not sure what the number will be,” he added.

The Heartland Trail, which already extends 49 miles from Park Rapids to Cass Lake, would continue to stretch west to Moorhead in the future.

The state has already invested $1.75 million in pre-work on the trail with design, land acquisition and the tunnel under Highway 10 at the east edge of Detroit Lakes. The cities of Frazee and Detroit Lakes and Becker County have all contributed funds to the project.

The Detroit Lakes-to-Frazee portion is estimated to cost $3 million, and the $100,000 would go toward a study for the trail from Moorhead to Hawley.

Last summer and fall when members of the Senate and House bonding committees took busses through the area looking at requested projects, local trail supporters asked anyone with five minutes on their hands to show their support by grouping together near the tunnel and showing the need for trail money. They were able to talk to state committee members and ask for funding to complete the trail.

“The trial extension will provide a huge economic boost to our communities and help solidify our region as a major tourist destination for bicyclists, snowmobilers and other outdoors enthusiasts,” Frazee Mayor Hank Ludtke said.

Imholte said that the Department of Natural Resources controls the construction of the trail and it likely wouldn’t start until 2015.

“They need to firm up some things with Burlington Northern Railroad and Ottertail Power, so I imagine they wouldn’t bid it until construction of 2015,” he said.

The Detroit Lakes in-town trails will be completed this summer.

“Hopefully, by the fall of 2015, you can bike back and forth to Frazee,” Imholte said.

“We often hear requests for trail routes and there are currently no state trails in northwest Minnesota,” Detroit Lakes Tourism Director Cleone Stewart said. “The Heartland Trail extension would help fill this void and bring more visitors to our area and dollars to our local businesses.”

Though the governor and the House have shown their support for the funding, the Senate still needs to approve its version of the bonding bill before the governor signs it.