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Comments sought on Heartland Spur

Plans for a Heartland Trail spur will be presented at an open house Oct. 2. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)


A master plan for the Heartland Spur, a 20-mile paved trail extension from Park Rapids to Emmaville to Itasca State Park, is about to be unveiled, with public comment sought.

An open house with DNR staff available to provide information on the trail corridor will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct 2 at the Northwoods Bank community room.

The release of the plan, legislatively authorized in 2012, will be available on the DNR website for a 30-day review beginning Wednesday, Sept. 25. Comments will be accepted through Oct. 25.

A significant portion of the proposed trail extension will travel through public lands.

The proposed plan calls for the trail to exit Park Rapids to the northeast, following the existing Heartland Trail. The trail, “at some point” will depart the existing trail and head north to Emmaville. The most likely location for this is at the CSAH 4 intersection, according to the master plan.

A trail following CSAH 4 right-of-way all the way to Emmaville is “the first preferred alignment.” CSAH 4 has a 100-foot right-of-way south of CSAH 40 and a 75-foot right-of-way north of CSAH 40.

The second “preferred alignment” follows CSAH 4 north and turns west along CSAH 40. The trail passes in between Potato and Blue lakes. The alignment follows CSAH 40 northwest then parallels Holly Road and Horizon Drive north.

At this point, the trail will enter Hubbard County tax forfeited land. The trail continues north through county land for several miles. A connection east to Emmaville would be made. This connection could be made by a separate trail corridor off the Heartland Spur, the plan states.

A third alternative would also follow CSAH 4 north, but past Blue Lake. The trail would diverge northwest and enter state forest land between Blue and Pickerel lakes. The route enters county forest land and continues on the route described in the second alternative.

The paved Heartland Spur will be a multi-use, multi-seasonal trail, intended for bicycling, walking, dog walking, jogging, in-line skating, environmental education and interpretation, hunting, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.

The DNR explains the master plan is the first of many steps toward implementation.

“It will be a multiple year process,” said Tony Walzer, DNR acquisition and development specialist, the timeline hinging on funding.

Funding avenues may include state bonding and/or federal funds.

The vision for the Heartland Spur is for the trail “to 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.

“The trail will enhance opportunities for the appreciation and enjoyment of high-quality landscapes, including aspen-birch forests, rare virgin pine forests and the headwaters of the Mississippi,” the draft states.

“This segment will add a recreational amenity to the area, increase tourism, and accentuate the already popular Itasca State Park and Heartland State Trail. Local residents will experience positive health and economic benefits from the trail,” the master plan predicts.

When completed, the Heartland State Trail will stretch across four ecological subsections, the Chippewa Plains, Pine Moraines and Outwash Plains, Hardwood Hills and the Red River Prairie.