Stearns County receives $1million for trails

Submitted Article
Stearns County’s Park Department received a $1-million Parks and Trails Legacy Program grant for extension of the Lake Wobegon Trail from St. Joseph to Waite Park. This is the largest grant ever received by the Stearns County Parks Department.
The grant will fund purchasing the trail corridor, completion of engineering plans for building the trail and the construction of a portion of the trail located in River’s Edge Park in Waite Park.
“This is really exciting,” said Peter Theismann, Stearns County Parks Director.  “This is a real log jam breaker to bringing the trail into St. Cloud and is a big step forward in getting the trail completed. If you get the land purchased, the trail will get done.”
Extending the Lake Wobegon Trail into St. Cloud was the number one priority of local citizens. The trail extension also has the support of neighboring cities. In addition, there has been a positive response from business owners along the trail.  Some adjacent landowners are considering donating trail corridor.
This portion of the Lake Wobegon Trail is a Rails-with-Trails corridor, meaning the trail would run parallel to an active railroad line.  This additional 3.2 miles from St. Joseph to Waite Park would make the Lake Wobegon Trail in Stearns County over 57 miles long, and connect the trail to the most populous area of the County.
Plans are to purchase the land this year and finish construction in Rivers Edge Park in Waite Park in 2015.  
The next step would be actual construction of the trail. While Stearns County Parks will be looking at federal and state funding sources, they are also looking for public involvement, grassroots fundraising, for this community project. Citizens can make a donation online at http://givemn.  or by sending a check to the Central MN Community Foundation for the “Wobegon Trail to the Mississippi Fund”. A local anonymous citizen is matching contributions up to a total of $5,000.
The Stearns County 
Parks Department also received a $25,000 Parks and Trails Legacy Program grant to restore a portion of the existing Lake Wobegon Trail. The grant will pay for resurfacing segments of the trail from Albany to Morrison County.
            “This amount of money is significant to help us rehabilitate our existing trail,” said Theismann. “It’s just as important for us to take care of what we have as it is to build new.”
            This is the first time Stearns County received a grant to restore a trail.
            Funding for this Legacy grant program is from the Parks and Trails Fund created by the Minnesota Legislature from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. In 2008, Minnesota's voters passed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy to protect drinking water sources; to protect wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve arts and cultural heritage; to support parks and trails; and to protect lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater. The Legacy Amendment increases the state sales tax by three-eighths of one percent until 2034. Nearly 60% of Stearns County voters supported this sales tax.


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