Editorial: Trail delays have been unacceptable

Published 10:23 am Thursday, July 25, 2013

There have been far too many delays in the construction and funding of the Blazing Star Trail between Myre-Big Island State Park and Hayward.

It was authorized by the state Legislature in 1996. Albert Lea built the first 1.9-mile segment in 1997. The Legislature appropriated funds for a 4.5 mile segment from the city to the state park in 1998. That segment was completed in 2003. That same year, Hayward built restrooms and a picnic shelter in anticipation of the trail being extended. In 2005, the Legislature appropriated $1.47 million for extending the trail to Hayward.

The project sat on the Department of Natural Resources’ back burner until the deadline for spending the funds neared in 2010, at which time the deadline was extended in 2014. Meanwhile, prices go up and an additional $500,000 was OK’d in 2011.

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Now local governments are asking for an additional $500,000 for the project. More waiting.

To be sure, we want the trail. We would be glad to see construction on the bridge over Albert Lea Lake begin this winter, provided the land on the eastern shore has been acquired. It would be good to see this work start regardless of funding for other parts of the trail. Let’s get this ball rolling.

But once the Blazing Star Trail reaches Hayward and is done, the DNR, state lawmakers and trail advocates ought to place the next segment on a front burner. That segment more than likely will reach the KOA Kampground near Petran.

We understand government is not as fast as people’s expectations, but taking eight to 10 years to complete 2.9-mile paved footpath is exceedingly protracted. It’s embarrassing for a state normally as good as Minnesota is. Everyone involved ought to be pushing to play catch-up for the next piece.