The Minnesota River Valley State Trail
The Minnesota Valley State Trail has become a big topic of discussion in the Bloomington Mayoral and City Council races. Understanding the topic takes more than sound bites and lightning round answers at a candidate’s forum.
First, some background. The State Legislature authorized the Minnesota Valley State Trail 50 years ago with the goal of establishing a continuous 72 miles trail corridor along the Minnesota River from Fort Snelling State Park to the City of Le Sueur. A good portion of the trail is already in place upstream from Bloomington, but the segment from the Bloomington Ferry Bride to Fort Snelling is not.
Back in 2014, the State Legislature approved $2.65 million to begin work on the 13-mile segment in Bloomington that will extend from the Ferry Bridge to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center. In December of 2018, the DNR awarded a contract to begin construction on approximately 1.7 miles of the Trail starting at Lyndale Avenue and extending east to the Xcel powerline corridor. The plan is that construction of the entire 13-mile corridor will occur in phases as State funding is made available.
I support the DNR’s plan to build a paved trail in the Minnesota Valley State Trail because a paved trail will open up the River Valley to Bloomington residents who otherwise don't have the chance to enjoy it. Disabled people, people with mobility limitations, older residents, disabled veterans, and families with young kids should all have access to this great asset. It’s also important to note that the project will complement, not compete with, the current natural trail. There will still be a natural trail and users will actually benefit from parts of the project like a bridge crossing at Nine Mile Creek.
Even more important is the fact that this is a State of Minnesota project. I don’t believe it’s appropriate for a seven member City Council to try and cancel a State project.
Whose Trail is it?
No matter how many times people incorrectly say otherwise, the Minnesota River Valley State Trail is a State of Minnesota project. This is not a City of Bloomington project.
The State Trail was proposed by the Department of Natural Resources.
The Trail was discussed, voted on, and approved by multiple committees in both the House and Senate.
The Trail was discussed, voted on, and approved by the full House and Senate.
The Trail was discussed, voted on, and approved by a Conference Committee of the House and Senate.
And finally, the legislation authorizing the Trail and funding for it was signed into law by the Governor Mark Dayton.
And no matter how many times people incorrectly say otherwise, the Department of Natural Resources is responsible for designing, constructing, maintaining, and operating the trail. The City of Bloomington is not and will not be responsible for those costs.
Some Trail opponents claim that because the City has been working with the DNR on the project that it somehow makes it a City of Bloomington project. That’s wrong. This is a good-sized State of Minnesota project coming through Bloomington and it would be irresponsible if the City was not involved. But that doesn’t make it a city project. Similarly, City staff is working closely with the MNDOT on the 35W Bridge over the Minnesota River. That doesn’t make the 35W Bridge a city project.
What to Do
Everybody knows that the Minnesota River Valley floods. It’s also no secret that DNR trail maintenance is ridiculously underfunded. But instead of using those as arguments to cancel the project, I strongly support channeling the energy around this topic into making DNR trail maintenance a state funding priority. I would gladly be part of any efforts to meet and discuss this with the appropriate DNR officials.
More information about the State Trail is available on the DNR website at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_trails/minnesota_valley/plans.html