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Heartland extension, Mountain Link trails expected to see construction this summer

The first phase of the Mountain Link Trail, which branches off of the Heartland Trail at the Highway 10 tunnel just east of town, is set to be constructed this summer. Submitted Photo

2019 is gearing up to be a big year for trails in Becker County. Not only will the Heartland Trail extension between Detroit Lakes and Frazee see construction this summer, but the hope is also to get construction moving on the first phase of the Mountain Link Trail.

The construction on the Heartland Trail will carry the trail from the tunnel that is already constructed under Highway 10 just east of Detroit Lakes all the way to where County Road 10 intersects with Highway 10 just west of Frazee, though it will happen in two phases.

Phase one has already been bid out at $2.85 million and awarded to Carl Bolander & Sons construction company, based out of St. Paul, Minn. The segment to be constructed in that first phase is the trail that will run from Detroit Lakes to Acorn Lake and then another segment that will run from Acorn Lake and stop at the County 10 intersection.

Phase two's plans are still being finalized, because it's a more complicated aspect of the whole project.

"That second phase is a half mile plus right at Acorn Lake," said Kent Skaar, the senior project manager for the parks and trails division of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Skaar says the section of trail that passes Acorn Lake is a difficult area because it's steep, and there has been some erosion in that area, so some reinforcement needs to be built. A decorative concrete wall will be built at that section, but Skaar says it's actually going to make for some nice views.

"That will also provide for the trail to have an observation piece looking over Acorn Lake," he said.

Another part of phase two deals with the existing tunnel crossing Highway 10 just east of town. Skaar says the intent is to finalize the engineering that will connect the tunnel to trail heading out of town. Once that's complete, he says the hope is to have it bid out by this spring and start construction this summer.

They are also starting to look at ways to cross County 10 and continue the trail on to the County Road 87 intersection, though that segment is still in the planning phase.

The Mountain Link Trail is a path that will branch off of the Heartland Trail, right at the Highway 10 underpass, and head west, back towards Detroit Lakes. Eventually it will wind up to Detroit Mountain, but the first phase of the project, which will begin construction this summer, simply deals with a .3-mile section that runs west from the tunnel to County Road 54.

That first phase hasn't been finalized or bid out yet, but the estimated cost of the project is $112,950. The project is being funded by a federal grant and matching funds of $18,825 from Becker County and another $18,825 from the city of Detroit Lakes.

"Once the due diligence is completed we...hope to do some construction relative to the first phase of the Mountain Link Trail in 2019. This summer, ideally," said Guy Fischer, the Becker County economic development coordinator. "There's a lot of efforts, a lot of people working on linking this stuff up and getting it done. We're getting closer, relative to the Heartland. There's some pending construction we're anticipating this year, but this other piece, we're also looking to push it forward."

Fischer and Skaar both say the tunnel has already been a real asset to the community, allowing people to cross Highway 10 without impeding traffic or getting injured, particularly snowmobilers. The pending phases of these projects are just the next step in further improving that asset.