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Consultant hired for Itasca-Heartland Connection Trail

WSB is under contract to design the tunnel and administer construction.

ItascaHeartlandProposedTrailFinal.jpg
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources staff has drawn up a preliminary engineering plan for the proposed 17-mile trail from the Itasca State Park contact station to Emmaville.
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WSB was hired as project consultant for the Itasca-Heartland Connection Trail.

Kent Skaar, senior project manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Parks and Trails Division, said a preliminary design was provided to the consulting firm.

He spoke Monday, June 14 with the citizen-led committee that has championed constructing the multi-purpose, paved trail between Itasca State Park and the Heartland Trail.

Construction is split into phases. Throughout this summer, engineers from the Bemidji DNR office will complete required natural resource and cultural reviews of the proposed 1.75-mile trail from the Itasca State Park contact station to the tunnel under U.S. Hwy. 71.

Tunnel construction is scheduled for 2022, he said. When that work begins, there will be roughly a one-week detour on U.S. Hwy. 71.

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WSB is under contract to design the tunnel and administer construction, Skaar explained.

ItascaHeartlandProposedTrailFinal.jpg
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources staff has drawn up a preliminary engineering plan for the proposed 17-mile trail from the Itasca State Park contact station to Emmaville.

Committee member Clark Arneson said general consensus is to seek additional bonding for the project from the Minnesota Legislature in 2022. Engineering and construction is anticipated to cost $1.8 to $2 million, but that figure will need to be refined, he said. This would connect the trail from the tunnel west into the state park’s existing bike trail and east to an established snowmobile trail.

“The thought was to make, in bonding terms, what would be a relatively modest ask,” Arneson said.

At this time, Skaar noted the material and labor costs are “fluctuating exorbitantly.”

Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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