The East Cannon River Trail is now paved. However, it’s a dead end, one-mile trail.

paving of the East Cannon River Trail paving of the East Cannon River Trail paving of the East Cannon River Trail
By the end of today, paving will be completed on the East Cannon River Trail (part of the Greenway Corridor). I took these photos late Thursday afternoon.

paving of the East Cannon River Trail paving of the East Cannon River Trail paving of the East Cannon River Trail paving of the East Cannon River Trail
The paved trail currently ends a few hundred feet shy of the old Village School, now owned by the Northfield Hospital (and soon to house 40+ hospital operations employees).  Sean Simonson, Engineering Tech Coordinator for the City of Northfield, told me that in a few weeks, that short segment will be completed and paved as well, connecting to the parking lot of the Hospital operations office building.

The bad news?

When I blogged about the trail back in mid-May, I assumed it would extend all the way to Dundas since the Babcock Park Lift Station & Interceptor Sewer Project involves Northfield taking more shit from Dundas.

Alas, I was wrong.

The south end of the East Cannon River Trail The south end of the East Cannon River Trail 
The trail ends at a swamp just south of the Hospital operations office building. And there are no current plans/funding to extend the trail along the river all the way to Dundas, despite the wording on the Parks and Trails Legacy Grant Program page for the East Cannon River Trail that says it’s a "3 mile multi-use trail."

It’s really about one mile. Maybe 1.5.

To get to Dundas from the end of the paved trail (again, in a week or so when it connects to the hospital operations parking lot) you’ll need to take the frontage road (Bollenbacher Drive) along Hwy 3 to Riverview Drive by Perkins, west to Cannon Road, south all the way to County 1, and then west into Dundas where you can then return to Northfield via the Mill Towns Trail.

So we’re a long way from a complete 6-mile loop trail. But it’s a considerable improvement. The East Cannon River Trail now provides trail access to the Babcock Park baseball field, the Northfield Ice Arena, and all the businesses in the area.


  1. It’s a tad ironic, since this means this trail (which follows the route of Hwy 3) ends exactly where the sidewalks end on Hwy 3 — where Bollenbacher Drive curves back into the older frontage road. Except for the poorly designed Woodley St intersection, it was never really that hard to bike in this area before — the really problematic area is the gap between this point and Dundas. I realize the point of this was recreational, not for transportation, but doubling up where there is already a (mediocre) route and not at all where there is a complete gap, is a tad odd.

    Have they at least fixed the gap in Riverside/Babcock Park as part of this? A portion of the trail — near Peggy Prowe Bridge — has been missing for months. Getting to Northfield Athletic (before its closing), I had to ride on Hwy 3 well past the end of the bike lanes. Not the end of the world, but some drivers certainly didn’t appreciate having to change lanes on the bridge.

    June 30, 2011
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    So does anyone know the details on how it happened that this trail is now destined to be a dead-end for a long time, ie, only 1 mile of the frequently announced 3 miles which was to make a 6-mile loop between Nfld and Dundas in conjunction with the Mill Towns Trail?

    July 1, 2011
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    Looking at pages 52-56 of the March 15 City Council packet, the trail had already secured the money to connect all the way to Honey Locust Drive. The resolution was for an application for additional money to pave it:

    Due to the budget shortfall, cuts were made to the project including eliminating part of the proposed connecting trail section and paving the trail using crushed rock for the trail surface rather than bituminous as proposed.

    Subsequently the City submitted two applications for the 2010 Legacy Grants to help fund the portions of the project that were eliminated.

    The City received $45,000 for construction of the connecting spur to Honeylocust. The City was not successful funding the paving portion of the project.

    So we got the money to pave the trail from the Peggy Prowe Pedestrian Bridge to Honey Locust Drive but somewhere along the way, a whole mile or more was lost/cut/deleted?

    July 1, 2011
  4. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve edited the title of the blog post to now read:

    The East Cannon River Trail is now paved. However, it’s a dead end, one-mile trail.

    July 1, 2011
  5. David Koenig said:

    Griff, like all public works projects, I ask where is the endowment that will cover all future maintenance costs?

    Just as with the proposed Safety Center, etc, the true cost of a project is not just its construction, but that plus the present value of all future maintenance costs.

    So, it looks to me like it’s not just a matter of not having enough funding to extend the route, but that it’s maintenance has not been properly accounted for — in effect, it has been borrowed from future taxpayers.

    Are you aware of any set-asides for the maintenance?

    July 1, 2011
  6. David, your point is spot on. The City should (must) do a better job of planning and budgeting for the maintenance and eventual replacement of its facilities and infrastructure.

    We must do this across the board, but the bike trail and other grant-supported projects highlight one of the pitfalls of grant funding. Grants provide capital for new projects, but not for on-going costs. We should be especially careful when seeking grant funding to understand the long-term cost of the project and not just the benefit of the front-loaded grant.

    July 5, 2011
  7. Griff Wigley said:

    Betsey, I don’t understand what happened with this trail. For at least two years it’s been touted as the piece that makes for a 6-mile loop to Dundas and back with the Mill Towns Trail.

    And now, with no explanation anywhere that I’ve been able to find, it has become a 1.5 mile trail, with no plans/money to extend it to Dundas.

    What happened?

    July 9, 2011
  8. Ray Cox said:

    When I developed the Cannon Commercial Center (AmericInn, Bierman’s, etc.) the city required me to put a trail along the river. Their specs called for a graded trail finished with shredded bark. I complied with the requirement, but I’ll have to say in the several years that I was working in the area I never did see anyone use the trail. It eventually was totally overgrown and ignored.

    I concur with David K’s comments: budgeting for ongoing maintenance is crucial to any public project. Without that, we just end up with a bunch of junk scattered around town.

    July 9, 2011
  9. David Koenig said:

    As I mentioned in Post 5 above, I hope that this extra money will be used to start an endowment or separate account at the City for the future maintenance of the trail that is already planned/built. It should not go to get “more.”

    February 15, 2012
  10. David:
    Doesn’t look like that’s an option:

    The east river trail installation must begin by June 2013 or the city will forfeit the grant.

    The City of course does need to worry about maintenance costs, but that’s not the purpose of grant money. This money will need to be used to extend the trail if they want it at all.

    While the current route does seem to be used, I do wish it were connected in a way that allows it to be mutually beneficial for trail users and businesses. That is to say, there should be direct access to the S Hwy 3 businesses it runs adjacent to, and signage, etc to reflect their presence. Theoretically, this route has uninterrupted trail access from 5th and Water to:

    El Tequila/Curves strip mall
    Tobacco Field
    George’s Vineyard
    Cannon Valley Vet’s pharmaceutical facility (employees)
    Cannon Valley printing (employees)
    Northfield Ice Area
    Tokyo Grill
    AmericInn (bike rental/tourism opportunities with direct access to downtown)

    This has a lot of potential value for business, which could ultimately justify assessments to cover maintenance costs. RIght now, unfortunately, it’s not set up to access any of those things. It has only direct access to Babcock Park and and the old Village School site. Integrating with businesses seems win-win, and could provide revenue for trail maintenance.

    February 15, 2012
  11. Griff Wigley said:

    From today’s City Administrator’s Memo:

    East Cannon River Trail – DNR Legacy Grant

    Brian Welch, Engineering Resources Manager

    The City of Northfield applied for grant money in early 2011 through the MN DNR Parks and Trails Legacy Grant Program –Trail Legacy Grant to complete the East Cannon River Trail to Dundas. The project will continue the trail from its current terminus at Bollenbacher Dr. to the north end of Dundas where users can then connect to the Mill Towns Trail on the west side of the Cannon River. The project had an estimated budget of $305,000. The Trails Legacy Grant program provides up to 75% funding and the City pursued that full amount: $228,750. The remaining 25% match would come from local funds. The city was informed in June 2011 that it was awarded the full amount requested.

    In August 2011 the DNR informed the City that the MN Legislature had allocated additional money to the Legacy Grant Program and that all awarded proposals would need to be resubmitted for a new competitive review. Proposals were now allowed to ask for up to 90% funding with a 10% local match. The City resubmitted the same proposal, but this time asked for the full 90% funding from the state: $274,500. Northfield was notified on Dec. 20, 2011 that the full request has been awarded. The remaining 10% local match of the grant proposal, $30,500 will come from local funds.

    The $305,000 proposal budget for the project is based on estimates for site preparation (grading), construction of the trail sub-base, and paving as these are the primary costs that are allowable under the Legacy Grant Program. Costs for permitting, easements, and right-of-way acquisition are not eligible and therefore were not included in the grant proposal. In addition, a bridge or box culvert will be necessary to cross one creek along the trail. Given the scale of most successful Legacy grants for cities the size of Northfield seems to be less than $300,000, the cost for the creek crossing was not included in the Legacy Grant proposal.

    The Rotary Club of Northfield has donated $100,000 toward the trail project. These funds will aid in meeting the costs of the trail project that exceed the scope of the Legacy Trail Grant. Permitting work continues through a City contract with Barr Engineering. Negotiations with property owners and Dundas also continue.

    February 17, 2012
  12. Thanks should go to Erica Zweifel for bringing the changed grant guidelines to staff’s attention and making sure the item was on the Council agenda in time to take action – thanks, Erica!

    February 17, 2012

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