Our Opinion: Finish the trailPublished 9:32am Tuesday, March 25, 2014
We were pleased to find a $2.5 million request to finish the Shooting Star Trail from Rose Creek to Austin within the Minnesota House’s $1.34 billion bonding bill last week. This project has taken decades to get to the final stretch and we call on the state legislature to include the Shooting Star Trail in its final bonding bill.
Many volunteers with Prairie Visions, the committee formed when the project began in the early ‘90s, have fervently hoped they would see the project completed by the new millennium. Of course, no one expected the Shooting Star Trail to drag on as funding for its subsequent projects fell to the wayside.
Volunteers and county staff have waited for years to finish this project, and they’re in a good position to do so after Vision 2020 organizers stepped in to help with the process. The groups announced plans for the last stretch of the trail to connect to Austin in February and there’s a lot of momentum to finish the project soon. If the money goes forward and is approved by Gov. Mark Dayton, work could start on the trail this fall and be finished within two years.
We encourage the state to move forward with this plan. We realize there are many trail and road projects around the state, including the Highway 14 project that has been delayed for years, but this is a good project to finish now — it would highlight the state’s commitment to increased bike transportation by providing trail access for a large portion of southeast Minnesota. There are even plans to connect Austin to other area hubs, like the Blazing Star Trail in Albert Lea and Iowa’s Wapsi-Great Western Trail.
Those are great opportunities for Austin and Mower County, as well as for southern Minnesota residents, to bike through much of our great state’s lower region. It could definitely put our area on the map as a great bike transportation system example. But all that starts with one last push to finish the Shooting Star Trail. We hope legislators take note and do the right thing, not just for Austin but for southern Minnesota: Finish the trail.