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Proposed walking trail pros and cons

Fri, Jul 6th, 2007
Posted in Government

Lanesboro - When the Lanesboro City Council held a hearing on a proposed walking trail as part of their regular meeting July 2, they heard plenty-both pro and con! The walking trail project currently has been allocated $1,200 of the $12,000 TMI grant money provided matching funds are raised and a more detailed plan is presented to the PAL (People Advancing Lanesboro) group. While everyone agreed the easement from Orville Amdahl was an "incredible gift to the city," not everyone felt the trail was in the best interest of the community.

Richard Haddorff called the proposed trail along the back of his property "very detrimental to our business" as he informed the council the advertising focus for his B&B was its privacy.

Jeff Norby expressed his concern for safety, pointing out that large boulders come off the bluff whenever there's a big rain. Having walked the proposed trail recently, Greg Qualy reminded the council that spring flooding would be anywhere from 8" to 2 feet above the trail. He spoke of seeing deer, raccoon, and mink and called it a game trail, not a walking trail. Don Wangen, who had also been on the trail, worried that "hundreds of trees would need to be moved." Wangen, claiming he'd never been "against anything in Lanesboro for over 60 years," declared his opposition to the trail as he opined, "The liability would kill you!"

John Levell also spoke about the wildlife in the area and told the council that strip of the river already was the best fishing-it wouldn't be enhanced by the development of a trail and could be adversely affected. He urged fiscal conservatism as he encouraged the city to spend its money on necessities. Levell asked about the possibility of getting funding for determining the environmental impact of the trail.

Pauline Wangen added her voice to the opposition of the trail as she called for the trail to remain natural. Wangen suggested the city focus on the upkeep of the local bunny trail instead and asked how the ambulance would be able to respond to an emergency on the trail.

Park Board member Marge Drake told the council the board was not in favor of adding such a trail to the busy Park Department's duties. Drake questioned the availability of DNR funds for creating such a trail when the DNR was unable to maintain the bike trail. DNR's Craig Bloomer replied there was grant money set aside for acquisition and development of trails like this, which could be applied for in February, but that the trail would be part of a local trail system when completed.

Speaking in favor of the trail, Vernon Riddle considered the trail another opportunity for his grandkids to enjoy Lanesboro. Joe Deden of Eagle Bluff agreed, calling the trail a way to get people out into nature as he told the council the trail would be a "beautiful area for birding" and claimed it would be a "premier attraction" for Lanesboro. Deden reminded the council people had been leery of loss of privacy when the bike trail went through, but it hadn't been as much as anticipated.

Jennifer Rogers also spoke in favor of the trail. She pointed out people had been tubing and canoeing the river for years, probably disturbing the privacy more than a trail would. Rogers felt the trail could be improved with "knowledgeable people working on it" so it could be an area safely used for learning for children.

Verna Taylor reminded the assembly of the historic aspect of the trail; rock cut from the area was used to build many of the city's historic buildings.

Jeff Redalen, representing the Trail Group, said his group would work with the DNR fisheries people. According to Redalen, the trail would be designed to handle flooding and only two big cottonwoods would need to be removed. Box elder and buckthorn could be replaced with more desirable trees. He reminded the group that the current access to the land could easily change with a different landowner.

Orville Amdahl, current owner of the land, told the group there were only 5 cedars on the bluff when he moved to Lanesboro in 1926; the bluff was regularly burned to kill barberry bushes. Amdahl informed the council he would put a stipulation in the easement agreement that it would be cancelled in five years if the trail were not completed.

Craig Bloomer suggested putting in the trail by hand with loppers, shovels, and rakes to lessen the environmental impact. This has been done for hiking trails on the north shore of Lake Superior. When asked, Bloomer was not able to give an estimate on yearly maintenance costs due to the variability of flooding, but he said he would be able to give a ballpark figure on the development of the proposed trail.

Council member Vince Jeannette addressed the assembly, telling them it seemed they ultimately had the same goals, to enjoy and protect nature. He urged them to work together as a new committee to create a plan for the trail. The council made no decisions on the trail; they will check further into liability and safety issues as well as the financial impact.

Other business

In other business the council:

• tabled a request from Chad Acheman for a driveway access on Zenith; the council may require a turn around on the lot to eliminate backing out into traffic on the hillside;

• granted city administrator Bobbie Torgerson permission to seek bids for the replacement of the roof on the Community Center;

• approved paying a part-time library employee $13 per hour as interim librarian if needed;

• heard that only 28 junk letters had been sent-residents have until July 21 to clean up the items or the city has the option to deal with them;

• set sidewalk interest rates and terms at 4.83 percent for 7 years;

• approved a "children at play" sign near a daycare location on Hillcrest;

• decided the Chamber of Commerce could designate "special weekends" during which business owners could apply for permits to sell items on the street. The current ordinance will be revisited and possibly amended later; in the meantime vendors would not need to pay a fee.

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