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Letter: Heartland spur benefits many

As the former County Administrator for Becker County and as a resident of Detroit Lakes, I know that trails provide easily accessible and low cost outdoor recreation for an incredibly diverse group of people. Walking, running, pushing a stroller, roller blading, bicycling, horseback riding, bird watching or studying nature are just a few of the things that can be done on trails. Additionally, they also provide the disabled access to the outdoors experience making them a valuable recreational asset.

The educational value of trails, such as the Heartland Spur, will be a distinctive addition to the state trail network in the Park Rapids Lakes Area, connecting the Heartland and Paul Bunyan state trails to Minnesota’s first state park and the Mississippi River Trail.  Like the bog walk being created in the 50 acres expansion of the Sucker Creek Preserve in Detroit Lakes together these trails speak volumes of their importance in providing a unique learning environment for all generations.

One important benefit is that expansion of this trail will also be a catalyst for economic development. It is my professional belief that expansion of this segment of the Heartland State Trail from Park Rapids to Itasca State Park will serve as an economic multiplier, improving the quality of life in all areas, and can be used as an important recruiting tool by local businesses, the chamber of commerce and public agencies to target people with special skills or talents, and encourage new and expanding businesses to our communities. It will serve as stimulus and have a direct impact on visitor spending on specific sectors of our local economy including lodging, meals, and other goods and services.

However, the economic benefit extends beyond these affected business sectors and impacts increasing spending from and by their local suppliers, creating the indirect or “spin-off” effect on the rest of the economy. A third effect, occurs when income earned by employees in all affected businesses results in additional consumer spending. Fourth, it links generations by providing an additional recreational activity that encompasses all ages.

Just as the expansion of trails in Minnesota will connect our communities, the very creation will unite our citizens with trail enthusiasts, visitors, and advance our private sector and economic development as well as our quality of life.

I endorse and support this important endeavor and thank those responsible.

Respectfully submitted for the public record,

Tom Mortenson

Detroit Lakes