Cedar stretch designated as state trail

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, June 18, 2011

Legislators were hesitant to pass many bills before the end of the 2011 Minnesota session in May, but they were at least friendly to the Cedar River.

On May 27, legislation designated a stretch of the Cedar River — from Lansing to the Iowa border — as a state water trail. A state water trail designation on a portion of the Cedar River means more public access sites, trails and land restoration projects in the future. The goal is to create a better recreational resource for boating, fishing and other water activities.

Tim Ruzek and Justin Hanson of the Cedar River Watershed District spoke to the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee in March, and with local state senators and representatives, who were all on board with the idea.

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The committee was receptive to the idea, as Ruzek and Hanson had information about how a water trail will benefit the Cedar. Furthermore Ruzek and Hanson were able to answer all of the committee’s questions.

Perhaps the legislation was easier to pass than other bills because the designation costs the state no money at this point. The water trail designation means the portion of the Cedar River will be overseen by the DNR in the future, once new features such as boating access sites and a parking lot are incorporated.

In a few years, the water trail could couple well with the Skjeveland wetland restoration, which took place last month. DNR employees and Hanson removed tile from the Skjeveland property, so it will naturally fill in with ponds and become an aquatic management area (AMA). The DNR will also plant some native grasses on the property after killing the existing weeds. Hanson has hopes for a parking lot next to the Skjeveland AMA, along with an access point to the Cedar River, which flows next to the property.

The water trail designation also means DNR employees will occasionally check the water trail for hazards. Other features may be a webpage with mapping of access points and river level reports.

The Cedar River stretch joins 32 other state water trail sections throughout Minnesota.