Shell Rock River trail closer to designation

Published 9:49 am Thursday, April 23, 2015

Senate approves 25-mile trail, house to vote Friday

The Shell Rock River Water Trail is inching closer to becoming a state-designated trail.

Legislation designating the trail within the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources system passed the Senate floor Wednesday as part of the Environment and Natural Resources Budget Bill and is expected to come to the House floor on Friday.

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“We’re very glad the Legislature has responded well to the Shell Rock River Water Trail,” said Bill Howe, a member of the Lakes Foundation of Albert Lea and chairman of the Shell Rock River Watershed District’s Advisory Committee. “This is a priority for our community and will help us showcase ourselves in a unique and exciting way.”

The water trail begins at the north end of Fountain Lake in Edgewater Bay and winds through Fountain and Albert Lea lakes until reaching the mouth of the Shell Rock River at the Albert Lea Lake dam.

From there, the trail follows the river until it reaches the Iowa border.

It passes by the Blue Zones Walking Trail, the Blazing Star Landing, a boat launch and backpack sites at Myre-Big Island State Park, among others.

It covers 25 miles and includes 13 miles of trail on the river.

Organizers have already installed educational signs throughout, and they hope in the future there could be more soft canoe and kayak landings put in along the trail, along with canoe rentals. Plans are in the works to install a rental kiosk at Frank Hall Park near the new Golden Point Launch.

Supporters have previously stated the trail has the potential to bring more tourists to town and to allow residents from Albert Lea and the rest of the state to enjoy the scenic views and other outdoor recreation offered.

“In Albert Lea, water is very much tied to our identity and our economy, and is important to us,” said Susie Petersen, executive director of the Albert Lea Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. “With the water trail, we have a very exciting addition to our tourism economy, which will showcase all of the good work that has been done with our water quality. We want to show that off.”

If the House approves the bill, the differences will be worked out in a House-Senate Conference Committee before going to be signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton.