Support for Hayward trail voiced

Published 10:23 am Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A handful of area governments are coming together to voice their support for an additional $500,000 in state bonding funds for the extension of the Blazing Star Trail.

The Albert Lea City Council on Monday added their backing for the funding, which, if awarded, would complete the extension of the trail from Myre-Big Island State Park to Hayward.

The Blazing Star Joint Powers Board has submitted a preliminary application requesting the funding, and the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners last week voted its support. The partnership also includes the cities of Austin and Hayward, as well as Mower County.

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Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said he thinks the $500,000 would be the final funding needed to complete the $5 million trail extension, including a bridge over Albert Lea Lake.

The Blazing Star Trail presently is a 6.4-mile, paved state trail from Frank Hall Park in Albert Lea to a point on the northeast side of Myre-Big Island State Park, about three-quarters of a mile from the western shore of Albert Lea Lake’s northern bay. The trail was built in 2003 after five years of land negotiations.

The extension would develop an additional 2.9 miles of trail to Hayward, according to the city resolution. It could be used for various forms of recreation, including hiking, running, biking and inline skating.

The trail has been long in the making after the Legislature authorized its existence in 1996.

The city built its first segment of the trail — 1.9 miles — in 1997. In 1998, the initial funding for the trail’s second segment — 4.5 miles — was appropriated, and that segment was completed in 2003.

Hayward built restrooms and a picnic shelter in 2003 in anticipation of the trail being extended from Myre-Big Island State Park to Hayward.

In 2005, the Legislature appropriated $1.47 million for the third segment of the trail to Hayward, and in 2010, that funding deadline was extended to 2014. An additional $500,000 was appropriated for the same segment in 2011.