Tag Archives: Mill Towns Trail

Mill Towns Trail update from the DNR: Northfield citizens have a problem to solve

L to R: Dana Graham, Galen Malecha, Peggy Prowe, Courtland Nelson, David Bly, Joel Wagar, Steve HennessyL to R: Peggy Prowe, David Bly, Joel Wagar, Steve Hennessy, Glenn Switzer, Peter Hark, Dana Graham, Galen MalechaMill Towns Trail maps

Top officials from the Minnesota DNR Parks and Trails Division held a meeting for a group of local elected officials on Friday at Dundas City Hall to bring them up to speed on current and future developments with the Mill Towns Trail.

DNR Parks and Trails staff:

  • Courtland Nelson, Director
  • Peter Hark, Field Operations Manager
  • Steve Hennessy, Acquisition and Development Specialist
  • Joel Wagar, Area Supervisor

Local elected officials who were able to attend:

Local bike advocate Peggy Prowe also was there.

Among the many developments with the trail that the DNR staff shared were these, most relevant to Northfield and Dundas:

  1. Acquisition of a 6.5 mile railroad right-of-way is in progress to connect Faribault to Dundas
  2. The current Dundas to Northfield segment needs a complete rebuild, but a new route is bring pursued that would be more scenic and eliminate two railroad crossings
  3. Discussions with Union Pacific Railroad on acquiring right-of-way for the segment from Northfield to Lake Byllesby have not been successful; other possible routes are being explored including a combination of private land acquisition and road right-of-way.

I’m particularly intrigued about #2. If you want to know why, ask.  Likewise, if you have questions about what’s happening with the trail in the Faribault and Cannon Falls areas, as staff provided updates on developments with those cities, too.

What’s the big problem facing Northfield?

The City of Northfield currently has no plan to provide a visually significant route for Mill Towns Trail bicyclists to ride through Northfield.  Those are my words. I use the phrase ‘visually significant’ because DNR staff was unequivocal: a bike trail that appears to end as it enters a city is a giant disincentive for bikers. Yes, trail bikers like to stop in towns along the trail to eat and shop and sightsee. But without strong in-town trail visuals, people tend to not return. The trail itself as it goes through town needs to be memorable, not just the town.

Root River State Trail, downtown LanesboroRoot River State Trail, downtown Lanesboro

A good example is the visual impact of the Root River State Trail as it goes through downtown Lanesboro (screenshots above from the DNR’s cool virtual tour of the trail). Lanesboro is much smaller than Northfield, of course, so it’s not a perfect comparison. But the point is, once you’ve ridden through Lanesboro on the trail, you don’t forget it and you want to go back.

As I blogged back in March, there are other projects and developments here in Northfield that have a bicycle-component: the Northfield Depot; the East Cannon River Trail segment; the TIGER Trail (aka the Northfield Modal integration project); and the Cannon River Corridor recreational concept.

So the time is right for more citizens to get involved as bike advocates.  Stay tuned for an upcoming announcement.  In the meantime, see my three blog posts about the need for Northfield to get its bike act together, including the formation of a regional bike advocacy committee.

The Mill Towns Trail between Northfield and Dundas is navigable, if you’re not a pussy

Armstrong Road between Northfield and Dundas is still closed from the July 13 flooding (Flooding wipes out Mill Towns Trail bridge, slices Armstrong Road, undermines railroad bed) and it could be months before it reopens.  Likewise, the Mill Towns Trail.

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But there’s a way around, as I discovered last night. From Northfield, just ride your bike through the compost facility

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all the way to the back till you arrive at the big rocks by the reconstructed railroad tracks. Then…

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you can ride on the tracks a few yards till you get past Spring Creek. The small rocks in between the rails make it pretty level. Alternately, if you’ve got good balance like Danny MacAskill, you can just ride on one of the rails like he does here. Smooooooooth. Then…

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ride down the larger rocks (pick your line carefully) and you’ll see the trail a few yards away. Piece ‘o cake.

[Footnote: Does my blog title offend you?  It shouldn’t. Remember when the word ‘sucks’ was offensive? If not, read this. Then see this Atlantic Wire article: Free Pussy Riot: When ‘Vulgar’ Words Become Acceptable.]

Flooding wipes out Mill Towns Trail bridge, slices Armstrong Road, undermines railroad bed

Another (100-year?) rainfall ‘event’ has brought me out of my blogging hiatus.

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I took these photos early this afternoon on Armstrong Road near the Northfield compost facility where runoff from this morning’s torrential rainfall cut through the road, washed away the Mill Towns Trail bridge, and completely undermined the railroad bed.

More photos to come? Probably.

Update 7 am, July 14:

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More photos to show the size of the washout on Armstrong Road.

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A construction crew evidently arrived yesterday and has begun work on the railroad bridge. My friend used to do water damage repair in Los Angeles and is on the work crew.

Update July 18:  A few more of my flooding-related photos below. See Rob Hardy’s comprehensive listing of links related to the flooding on Northfield.org.

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The pros and cons of forming a regional bicycle council

I was in St. Paul yesterday morning for the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota’s Day on the Hill which their web site described as:

Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota… a great opportunity to network with other park and trail supporters from around the state, learn about the issues, and hear from park leaders and legislators. Whether you come as a member of a Friends group, a concerned citizen or a student looking to learn about the process, you’ll leave informed and your involvement strengthens our efforts to preserve and enhance Minnesota’s special places! The morning will equip you with the necessary tools to meet with your legislators.

MN Parks & Trails Executive Director Brett Feldman Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota's Day on the Hill 2013 Northfield area Mill Towns Trail delegation
I went primarily because of their involvement with mountain biking (see my post about that on my Mountain Bike Geezer blog) but there was so much more that caught my interest, especially the delegation of Mill Towns Trail supporters from Faribault, Northfield, and Cannon Falls. I’m kicking myself for not getting a good photo of them because Peggy Prowe had them all wearing Mill Towns Trail t-shirts (right photo above).

MN Parks & Trails Executive Director Brett Feldman, Northfield Councilor Suzie Nakasian I briefly met Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota Executive Director Brett Feldman who asked me to send him some of my photos.  When he thanked me via email on Friday, he mentioned that he was coming through Northfield later in the day as he had a meeting at Nerstrand Big-Woods State Park. He accepted my offer to meet for lunch at Chapati and since I’d already had a late-morning meeting scheduled with First Ward Councilor Suzie Nakasian, I invited her to join us.

At the end of my blog post last month (Bemidji has earned ‘Bicycle Friendly Community’ status. Why not Northfield?) after attending the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota‘s (BikeMN) third annual Minnesota Bicycle Summit on Capitol Hill, I wrote:

What’s not clear to me is what city board or commission would be best to consider taking this on. The City of Northfield created a Non Motorized Transportation Task Force (NMTTF) back in 2007 that I think sun-setted a couple years later. Might it be time to create something similar but specifically for bicycling?

Since then, it’s become apparent to me that there a number of other bicycle-related issues that need attention, some that are Northfield-specific but others that are regional.

And so the bulk of our conversation with Brett Feldman was related to whether the creation of a regional bicycle council (Northfield, Dundas, Waterford, Rice County, and surrounding townships)  would have significant advantages over a City of Northfield bicycle commission or task force. I was initially leaning towards the latter but came away from the lunch leaning towards the former.

Northfield’s intra-city trails and on-street bike routes are a big focus. But the importance of their connectivity to the Mill Towns Trail and the surrounding streets and county roads is increasingly important for bike-related recreation of area residents, recreational tourism, company wellness on the part of local employers, and the overall economic benefits of the establishment of the greater Northfield area as a  northern recreational hub for southern Minnesota. (We already have a good reputation with Northfield Rotary’s Jesse James Bike Tour, Milltown Cycles’ 4th of July Criterium, and the Saturday Morning Rides book by Bill Metz.)

There are other projects and developments that have a bicycle-component: the Northfield Depot; the East Cannon River Trail segment; the TIGER Trail (aka the Northfield Modal integration project); Safe Routes to School; the Gateway Corridor Improvement Plan; Northfield Roundtable’s Framework Plan; and the Cannon River Corridor recreational concept (May 1, 2012 PRAB meeting packet link).

As Suzie wrote in a subsequent email:

With so many related projects… and with so many people in town who “get” what bikes and trails mean for the community well-being including economic well-being, it does seem that all the spokes are coming together in a perfect way.

So let’s discuss the pros and cons of forming a regional bicycle council.

More of my photos of Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota’s Day on the Hill:

Parks and Trails Council Executive Director Brett Feldman Luke Skinner, Deputy Director of MnDNR Parks and Trails Division Erika Rivers, Assistant Commissioner of MnDNR
Brett Feldman, Parks and Trails Council Executive Director; Luke Skinner, Deputy Director of MnDNR Parks and Trails Division; Erika Rivers, Assistant Commissioner of MnDNR

Greg Mack, Director of Ramsey County Parks and Recreation Tom Ryan, Superintendent of Olmsted County Parks Greg Mack, Erika Rivers, Tom Ryan Rep. Alice Hausman, Chair of House Capital Investment Committee
Greg Mack, Director of Ramsey County Parks and Recreation; Tom Ryan, Superintendent of Olmsted County Parks; Rep. Alice Hausman, Chair of House Capital Investment Committee;

Rep. Leon Lillie, Assistant Majority Leader, Vice-Chair Legacy Committee Rep. Jean Wagenius, Chair of House Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Finance Committee Jean Wagenius, Alice Hausman Sen. David Tomassoni, Chair of Senate Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Division
Rep. Leon Lillie, Assistant Majority Leader, Vice-Chair Legacy Committee; Rep. Jean Wagenius, Chair of House Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Finance Committee; Sen. David Tomassoni, Chair of Senate Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Division.

Sen. Dan Sparks, member, Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Division Rep. Phyllis Kahn, Chair of House Legacy Committee Rep. Denny McNamara, member, Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Finance Committee Joe Bagnoli, Government Relations Consultant for Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota
Sen. Dan Sparks, member, Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Division; Rep. Phyllis Kahn, Chair of House Legacy Committee; Rep. Denny McNamara, member, Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Finance Committee; Joe Bagnoli, Government Relations Consultant for Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota.

Bemidji has earned ‘Bicycle Friendly Community’ status. Why not Northfield?

BikeMN   Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht
I attended the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota‘s (BikeMN) third annual Minnesota Bicycle Summit on Capitol Hill on Monday, as I’m trying to get smarter about the state of bike advocacy in Minnesota and who the players are.  I became a BikeMN member a couple weeks ago and am impressed with all that they’re doing and how well-organized Monday’s Summit was.

Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht (@BemidjiRita) was one of the featured speakers, talking about Bemidji’s new designation as a Bike Friendly Community. From the BikeMN blog in October:

The city of Bemidji was granted the bronze Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) designation by the League of American Bicyclists(LAB) on Monday October 22, 2012. The award was the culmination of persistent efforts by many community leaders and advocates including Mayor Dave Larson, Parks & Recreation Director Marcia Larson as well as health, tourism, bicycling, law enforcement, transportation and environmental representatives from the community. BikeMN has been involved along the way and helped in preparing the BFC application.

I think the timing for mounting an effort to gain formal Bicycle Friendly Community designation is right:

Those two items are providing some incentive to figure out how Northfield’s downtown streets should be best managed for bicycling, part of the discussion going on this week on the Parking Management Plan blog.

What’s not clear to me is what city board or commission would be best to consider taking this on. The City of Northfield created a Non Motorized Transportation Task Force (NMTTF) back in 2007 that I think sun-setted a couple years later. Might it be time to create something similar but specifically for bicycling?

Mill Towns Trail gets a boost from the Goodhue County Commissioners. Their online presence likewise needs a boost

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The January 2013 issue of the Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota newsletter, Special Places, features news of the Mill Towns State Trail on its front page. The article is on their website: Done deal for iconic addition to State Trail system: Supporters of Mill Towns State Trail celebrate last-minute County decision. An excerpt:

On December 18, a critical decision was made during a Goodhue County Commissioner’s meeting that sealed the deal for an iconic addition to our state trail system. The decision was followed by a celebration among supporters of the Mill Towns State Trail, who until then were fearful that a good year’s worth of collaboration might come undone.

The project entails a key parcel of land where three miles of the Mill Towns State Trail will run. This section of the trail is located along the scenic Cannon River and will offer a connection between two regional parks via a pedestrian bridge over the river and then connect to the popular Cannon Valley Trail. The Parks & Trails Council has been working with partners to ensure this critical land could be acquired for the trail…

Part of what made this parcel so critical to the trail development was its role in enabling the construction of an iconic pedestrian bridge over the Lake Byllesby Dam (on the Cannon River). With this land, the bridge design can be optimized and construction deadline stays on schedule to receive the $1.7 million matching grant from the federal government.

Nfld News, Dec. 20: Byllesby Park land purchase another part of Mill Towns State Trail puzzle

Peggy Prowe, advocates for the Mill Towns Trail and hundreds of bicyclists have a dream of one day being able to ride from Mankato to Red Wing utilizing the area’s various bike trails.

Cycling enthusiasts are one step closer to that dream as Goodhue County Commissioners voted 4-1 on Wednesday to purchase a piece of property adjacent to Byllesby Park in Cannon Falls. That land will enable the Mill Towns Trail to be connected to the Cannon Valley Trail at Lake Byllesby.

Mill Towns Trail banner
Got some website and social media skills to volunteer?  The Mill Towns Trail website is nearly always out of date (last update was last July) and the organization needs help in making use of social media to spread its message and connect to its supporters.

They are strict in Dundas about bikes

Dan Bergeson has a new post titled Mill Towns Trail Update: Dundas Style! on his Bike Northfield blog in which he details, with photos by Glenn Switzer, the construction of the trail head facility in Dundas:

Bike Northfield blogThere is significant progress occurring on this project in 2012. A couple of weeks ago, the trail head facility in Dundas began to take shape. Dundas is roughly 10 miles from Faribault and 3 miles from Northfield.

Several years ago the town constructed a public parking lot at the site of the trail head and a drinking fountain. Now the drinking fountain is being flanked by a pavilion built from timber beams and limestone.

While biking in Dundas last week, I noticed this sign on a telephone pole on Hester Street. I’m not sure what it means exactly but it sure sets the tone: DFWD.

sign in Dundas, MN: Stay on trail or permission revoked

John Liebenstein memorial plaque is missing

John Liebenstein memorial on the Mill Towns Trail, 2011 John Liebenstein memorial on the Mill Towns Trail, 2011
I rode by the John Liebenstein memorial on the Mill Towns Trail earlier this week and noticed that the bronze plaque on the large boulder is missing.

Here’s what the plaque looks like. I took these photos in July, 2004:

John Liebenstein memorial on the Mill Towns Trail, 2004 John Liebenstein memorial on the Mill Towns Trail, 2004

See this summary of Deputy John Liebenstein on the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association (LEMA) website.

Anyone have more information about the missing plaque?

Update 7/21:  Here’s the new plaque. Details below:

John Liebenstein memorial on the Mill Towns Trail, 2011