Blazing Star could get a little closer to Austin
Published 10:25 am Monday, March 21, 2016
ALBERT LEA — Albert Lea’s city manager hopes a major connection on Blazing Star Trail will be completed by next year.
City Manager Chad Adams said he hopes the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources commits to funding or works with state bonding agencies to fund the construction of a bridge across Albert Lea Lake to connect Blazing Star Trail from Albert Lea to Hayward.
Adams said $1.25 million in funding is needed for the project, and added that the DNR has about $450,000 set aside for the project so far from original funds.
Email newsletter signup
DNR Regional Supervisor Joel Wagar said the DNR applied for additional funding for the bridge project last year, but did not make the funding list.
The project also did not make the list of projects the state has on this year’s bonding request.
“That doesn’t mean that it won’t be a part of the bonding conversation at this year’s legislative session, it just means that the initiative will need to come from a local source and through the area’s legislators,” Wagar said.
Adams said if bonding is secured, he hopes the project is finished by this fall or early 2017. He said connecting the trail is a quality of life issue that will provide regional economic development by bringing in families and cyclists to use the trail and parks.
The trail is eventually planned to extend to Austin to connect with the Shooting Star Trail and Root River Trail.
The portion of Blazing Star Trail from Hayward City Park to 1 1/2 miles west is nearly finished, Wagar said.
Adams said if the bridge is constructed the city will be meeting with local officials in Hayward, Austin, Freeborn County and other agencies to discuss future plans to extend the trail from Hayward to Austin.
“It’s just another asset to attract tourism and families to the communities,” Adams said.
He said the DNR has been a good partner with the city in trying to obtain funds, and added that while it has been frustrating for local community leaders to have to wait this long for funding, he understands the wait is due to limited budgets.
In addition to offering a place to exercise, Blazing Star Trail offers wetlands, oak savannah, big woods and prairie, along with wildlife that accompany each. The trail is used in the winter by cross country skiers.
The Legislature first authorized the existence of the trail in 1996.