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Heartland Trail project faces tricky road blocks

The Heartland Trail extension project between Detroit Lakes and Frazee has been divided into three segments - Frazee to Acorn Lake, Acorn Lake by itself, and Detroit Lakes to Acorn Lake.

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The Heartland Trail extension project between Detroit Lakes and Frazee has been divided into three segments – Frazee to Acorn Lake, Acorn Lake by itself, and Detroit Lakes to Acorn Lake.

Design on all three components are ongoing, and construction could start next year, said Kent Skaar, the DNR parks and trails acquisition and development section leader who is overseeing the project.

The multi-use trail has to squeeze through a tight spot between Acorn Lake and Highway 10, but property has been acquired there, and the Acorn Lake engineering study was slated to be done by the end of June.

“It will define how to approach getting through that spot,” he said.

The preliminary design for the segment from Detroit Lakes to Acorn Lake should be completed by late summer or early fall, Skaar said.

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The preliminary plan is complete for the Frazee to Acorn Lake segment, and the DNR has been working with a local trail group to overcome problems there.

“We’ll define what can and cannot be done (on that segment) within the next couple months,” he said.

The route had to be switched from the north side of County Road 10 to the south side of the road after Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway declined to give permission to build the trail on its right of way.

It’s normal for the DNR to build a multi-use trail in segments, Skaar said.

Unhappy with how long the overall process is taking, some local trail enthusiasts would like to see the DNR build at least one of the segments - from Detroit Lakes to Acorn Lake or Frazee to Acorn Lake, for example.

The State Legislature allotted $2.7 million for the project, and local trail supporters don’t want to see too much of it lost to construction inflation as time passes by.

“But the way we have to approach it,” Skaar said, “if we build a segment, can we safely guide folks out there and back? Building in segments is how trails are done, we just want to make sure nobody is put in an unsafe situation.”

The local trail group has been very helpful in helping move the project forward, Skaar said.

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Such groups “are a critical part of the process,” he said, helping to work with property owners and putting in the time and legwork needed to make the planning and design phases a success.

“Optimistically, we will be working on some portion of the Detroit Lakes to Frazee trail in 2016,” he said. “But there are a lot of issues and obstacles to overcome.”

Some planning work is being done on other portions of the overall Park Rapids to Moorhead Heartland Trail extension, notably the Hawley to Buffalo River State Park segment.

But “right now there is very limited funding for anything other than Detroit Lakes to Frazee,” Skaar said.

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Related Topics: HEARTLAND TRAIL
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