Editorial: Our region wants bike trails

Published 8:43 am Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Southern Minnesota deserves bike trails, but it seems the state is focused on extending northern Minnesota trails. In southern Minnesota, we like bikes, too, and we have more year-round population, albeit fewer tourists.

We want a healthy population and we want to address our cardiovascular needs with high- or low-impact exercise. Trails offer this.

Many cycling enthusiasts in southern Minnesota, when looking at the map of Minnesota bike trails, are quick to point out the lack of progress made on trails in the south when compared to north. The state government — more specifically, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources — has a poor reputation to overcome.

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And the lack of progress on the Blazing Star Trail — a DNR project that locals love love love and love some more — only expands that bad reputation. People in Albert Lea point blank want a trail that connects to Austin and to the Shooting Star Trail.

It is their long-term dream — and ours — that people can start in Albert Lea and someday ride a bicycle to the Mississippi River entirely by trails. Wow!

It is possible for the DNR to change its reputation. The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s neglected the roads in our region, especially any route connected to Austin. When people went north on vacations, they noticed a clear difference in highway quality.

MnDOT hasn’t totally solved that perception, but some of the highway repair in the past year or two has helped the local perception. The volume of complaining has decreased.

At the Hayward City Hall tonight, there is a meeting of the Blazing Star Trail Joint Powers Board. It starts at 6 p.m. Officials from the DNR and other stakeholders will be present. There will be an informational meeting at 7 p.m.

Like trails? Go to both. Let’s show a local presence tonight.