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Cities seek bonding funds for the Heartland Trail extension

The 100-mile multi-use Heartland Trail extension from Park Rapids to Moorhead is estimated at $24 million. City officials asked state senators Wednesday night for bonding money to help with the cost.

"If we get money in state bonding (form), we can get this done," former Detroit Lakes Mayor Larry Buboltz said.

The project has already received $1.75 million in state monies, which will be used to install a box culvert on the east side of Detroit Lakes to bring walkers and bikers under Highway 10 from the north side to the south side of the highway.

"It's like eating an apple," Buboltz said. "We can eat it a bite at a time."

The first section of the trail, which is scheduled for design and bidding next year and construction in 2010, only had one piece of land that was privately owned, and the landowner is willing to sell for the project.

There are no paved trails in northwestern Minnesota, and this is another reason cities want to get this going.

"We're asking for $4 million this year. We're hoping for your consideration," Buboltz told the senate bonding committee.

Senator Paul Koering asked about the local commitment to the project, what the cities are doing to help the project along. Buboltz said the cities will be responsible for trail heads and putting up parking lots.

"There are things the cities will have to do."

"It shows a lot when the communities put up money for it," the senator said. If the locals aren't committing to the project, he added, why should other taxpayers be helping foot the bill?

In Detroit Lakes, the public utilities department is getting involved in the utilities around the box culvert, and City Administrator Bob Louiseau said Detroit Lakes has already made commitments through the Highway 10 project.

Frazee City Manager Jon Smith said the city has been working on a grant through the Legacy Fund to use as a community connector to get a trail through the city that will connect with the Heartland.

Frazee Mayor Hank Ludtke added that Frazee is working to be the meeting place for multiple trails. This summer the city dedicated a water trail, and the North Country Hiking Trail is on its way to the city. He said the city is looking at the trails to be an economic investment as a trail town.

"There is a lot of effort to make these happen," he said.

Senator Keith Langseth pointed out that there will be an economic benefit for many of the towns when the trail is complete, not only through the visitors it will bring to the communities, but also residents from one neighboring community to the next.

This will be a DNR trail, which means that entity will be responsible for the upkeep.

Buboltz said he and others involved have also made a pitch to congressmen Collin Peterson and Jim Oberstar for some federal dollars as well.

"They listened whole-heartedly, but didn't make a commitment," he said.