Work to begin in 2024 on key connection of Blazing Star State Trail

Published 6:07 pm Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Project details to be shared at Feb. 6 open house

Work will begin soon on the Blazing Star State Trail to connect the communities of Albert Lea and Hayward, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The popular biking and hiking trail will have a new segment substantially completed and open for public use in 2025, when a trail, bridge and fishing access areas are constructed over the eastern part of Albert Lea Lake.

“This portion of the trail brings with it a number of complexities,” DNR Parks and Trails Acquisition Specialist Scott Haugen said. “We had to consider sensitive natural resources, cultural resources and challenging site conditions in the design process.”

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The first signs of work should begin within a few weeks.

“Winter is the ideal time to start a project like this,” Haugen said. “The frozen ground minimizes damage to soils within Myre-Big Island State Park and it also minimizes disruption to park visitors.”

The project will have three phases. Initial work will begin in early 2024 as contractors build a temporary road for worksite access. Construction of the trail grade and trail bridge over Albert Lea Lake will begin soon; however, it will require six months or more to achieve proper settling of the bridge foundation in the lake bottom before the surface can be paved. The final phase will include a reconstruction of 1.75 miles of trail within Myre-Big Island State Park leading up to the new trail segment. The existing trail is more than 20 years old and has reached the end of its service life.

“We are excited to get this important project underway and would like to acknowledge the valuable contributions and cooperation received from the communities of Albert Lea and Hayward as well as the Freeborn County Trails Association over many years of partnership,” DNR Parks and Trails Area Supervisor Joel Wagar said. “We are grateful for their commitment and dedication.”

The Minnesota DNR is inviting the public to an open house to provide details on the route, project timeline and construction drawings. The open house will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 6 at Albert Lea’s Edgewater Bay Pavilion on Fountain Lake at 1940 Edgewater Drive. Staff will be on hand to answer questions.

Ulland Bros. of Albert Lea was selected as the contractor.

Project funding is provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, federal aid from the Federal Recreational Trail and Transportation Alternatives programs and 2020 state capital investment bonding. Additional funding comes from the Parks and Trails Legacy Fund.