Trail supporters upset with Ventura#039;s decision

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 24, 2002

Gerald Meier is taking the high road.

"We'll just have to look for alternative funding sources," Meier said Thursday.

By removing the Shooting Star recreation trail from the state bonding bill late Wednesday, Gov. Jesse Ventura appeared to renege on a promise to include it in the legislation.

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Ventura had earlier said the Shooting Star project satisfied the requirements as a project with statewide significance.

Meier has worked from the start on the sub-committee of Prairie Visions to promote a recreation trail from LeRoy to Austin across Mower County.

Despite the assertion, that Prairie Visions will have to work harder to find funding sources, Meier couldn't hide his disappointment.

"It just goes to show you the Governor isn't doing what he promised so many he would do," Meier said.

State Rep. Rob Leighton (DFL-Austin) was stunned.

"The Shooting Star Trail had the backing of the DNR unlike the Blazing Star Trail in Freeborn County. I can't believe he did what he did," Leighton said.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources came to embrace the Shooting Star Trail project and that was thought to be enough to have it included in the state bonding bill; especially after Ventura himself said the project satisfied the requirements for inclusion n the bill.

The $450,000 was needed for development of the trail from Taopi to Adams.

This summer, the trail is being extended from the west side of Lake Louise State Park at LeRoy to Taopi.

According to Meier, other monies are in place for the trail's extension, but the $450,000 was needed for land acquisition and other expenses.

The governor's decision to cut the funding stops the trail in its tracks at Taopi.

Daryl W. Franklin, the county planner and zoning administrator, who acts as project manager for the Prairie Visions group, was resigned to the reality of the Ventura's attempt at frugality, as well as the bureaucratic red tape and delays which have haunted the trail project.

"It's part of the process. This happens," he said. "We still have our enhancement monies. What we will have to do is go to the Mower County Board next year and ask them to go back to the Legislature for bonding authority for the additional monies we need for this project. Then, they will have to decide."

The Shooting Star Trail is located in the 2nd Commissioner District. Ray Tucker, Dexter, is the commissioner.

Tucker still supports the trail project.

"It's a setback and a delay," Tucker said. "It will definitely slow us down."

Tucker said until adequate funding for the project is obtained, the segment from LeRoy to Taopi will have to suffice.

"The county can't do any more for this project than it already is doing," Tucker said.

He said if the state's financial picture improves dramatically, the Legislature and the governor can look more favorably on projects such as a recreation trail.

"I'm just thankful we got the latest segment underway this year before this happened," he concluded.

Lee Bonorden can be reached at 434-2232 or by e-mail at