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DNR hosts open house for trail

Fri, Jun 20th, 2003
Posted in Features

The Silver Spokes, a biking group from Chicago, uses the Trout Run Trail in Preston recently. The DNR is in the process of developing a master plan for the trail connecting Preston to Forestville. Photo by Pat Torgrimson

Legislative Authorization - Blufflands trail system, Fillmore, Olmsted, Winona, and Houston counties. (a) The Root River trail shall originate at Chatfield in Fillmore county, and thence extend easterly in the Root River valley to the intersection of the river with Minnesota trunk highway No. 26 in Houston county, and extend to the Mississippi river. 85.015 State trails.

"This is the kind of meeting the DNR should have had in the beginning of the project, stated Keith Fabian, a Carimona property owner who lives adjacent to the proposed trail. "It should be the DNR, not the Joint Powers, that approaches property owners about selling land for the trail." The DNR hosted an Open House the evening of June 18 at their office in Preston, hoping to give the community a better view of what the DNRs intentions are regarding the controversial Blufflands trail. According to DNR Trails and Waterway Area Supervisor, Craig Bloomer, the proposed trail would begin at the western end of the Trout Run Trail in Preston and end at the Historic Site at Forestville State Park. The alignment from Preston to Carimona has already been identified and acquired while the Carimona to Forestville portion has been identified with options to purchase more of the section secured. It was neighbors, community leaders, and the curious who attended the event, sharing their support and/or concerns for a project that started more than six years ago. Handouts, questionnaires and posters sought out the publics attention as DNR representatives, including Craig Bloomer, the DNR Trail & Waterways Area Supervisor, answered questions. When the city of Preston, a member of the Joint Powers Board, came knocking at Keith Fabians door in the hopes to obtain land for the trail, the family felt violated by the groups approach, which he believes came off in a threatening manner. According to the drawings his family has seen, the trail would be about 200 feet from the house on the north and west sides. Privacy and liability were major concerns of the family and they were not interested in participating. As soon as the landowner showed reluctant, the less than subtle term, "condemnation" fell into the conversation. Fabian believes this approach has caused animosity between some rural and city people as well as between the DNR and the rural community. "The DNR does not have condemnation authority, unless authorized by the legislature, nor does the Joint Powers Board related to this action", sites Fabian on his website (www.trailsinformationkeithfabian.com), a tool he offers to those who have questions about the property owners rights. On his website, Fabian outlines the only condemnation action taken on the trail, which took place in Houston County in 1995. The Grant Olson familys property, located almost two miles outside Houston city limits, was the subject of a trial conducted by Third Judicial District Judge Duane M. Peterson in January, 1996. Houston was able to take the land, claiming the need for city projects and shortly thereafter sold the property to the DNR. A recreational trail was built on the property. The Olson family later sued for damages and compensation, winning. Since the Olson conflict, there have been several other attempts by communities to obtain property in this manner. According to Fabian, concerned citizens have banned together to attend meetings and voice discord regarding the use of condemnation and eminent domain, halting such proceedings. Even at the now established $12,500 per acre price tag on trail property, not everyone is looking at the money. "I dont want to give up work land, the trail cutting through the farm, stated Vern Ristau, a livestock farmer whose family farm of sixty years is located on the Forestville road from Carimona. "I want to pass the farm on, with the original acres, to the next generation. Im not against the trail, just want the DNR to work with folks." Vern and his wife, Kay, say they felt pressured by the city to sell property. Ristau said there are neighbors that would like to have the trail pass by them, but the DNR hadnt made them any offers. Mitch Lentz, a crop and beef farmer who lives four miles east of Spring Valley would also like the DNR and the Joint Powers Board (made up of Spring Valley, Wykoff, Chatfield, Preston, Ostrander and Fountain) to try harder to work with the landowners. A lot of landowners are concerned about liability if someone wanders off the trail and is injured on their property. Who protects the landowner? they ask. "Its the DNRs job to find a way around a property that doesnt want be to split off", said Lentz. He thinks some of the trail should be placed in road ditches/right-of-ways. When the blacktop road was redone between Preston and Spring Valley a few years ago, there was an additional 15 road expansion taken, according to Lentz. Use some of this for the trail, proposed the farmer. Trail Support Theres also a lot of support for the trail plan."We think this is the greatest thing, a trail to Forestville is wonderful, beamed Kay Spangler, a resident of Preston. Her family came from the Twin Cities area five years ago to retire. The family had been coming down to camp in Forestville the last 20 years. Theyre more concerned about a tire plant being built in Preston than the proposed trail. Spangler sold approximately an acre of property by the West Bridge in Preston to the DNR. She thinks the trail is good thing for the community.Roger and Pat Hudella, of Carimona, are close to the trail and look forward to just "jumping onto it from their property. They have no concerns at this point about the plan. They, like Spangler, have moved to Preston to retire.Another unusual, but solid consideration rendered by a quiet farmer was that "I dont believe we own the natural resources, they should be shared. Ideas and concerns received at the open house will be used to help develop the master plan for the trail The trail is part of the legislatively authorized Blufflands State Trail System, that, when complete, will connect various communities in Fillmore and Houston counties.

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