A significant three-county gap in the metropolitan area’s system of biking and hiking trails is to disappear next summer. The four-mile-long link will create an 11-mile trail leading from Bloomington to downtown Chaska via Scott County.

But to zoom back further, officials say, is to see possibilities solidifying for trips much longer than that.

“This is a really important connection,” said Mark Themig, Scott County’s parks and trails chief. “Once you reach Carver County you’ll be able to connect with the Minnesota Bluffs trail, which leads to St. Louis Park and eventually downtown [Minneapolis]. On the Bloomington end, meanwhile, the state is working to create connections to Fort Snelling.”

The new $1.3 million segment is along Hwy. 101, from Memorial Park in Shakopee to the Bloomington Ferry Bridge.

The highway runs parallel to the nearby Minnesota River. Although in one sense it would have been ideal to run the path along the riverfront itself, that option created lots of problems, officials said. Among them were maintenance issues from flooding and fear of disturbing historic Indian sites.

Bidding of the contract is to take place over the winter, with construction starting in the spring. The new trail segment should be open by summer, Themig said.

The Minnesota Valley State Trail has a six-mile paved section from Shakopee to Chaska. The nearby Minnesota River Bluffs trail runs northward through Eden Prairie, and there is a planned shortcut to that trail from Shakopee.

Eventually a Scott West trail is to lead south and east from the river valley toward the regional parks in Prior Lake and Savage, with connections to Dakota County’s emerging system.

The new segment is being paid for by a $1 million federal grant, plus $300,000 from the state.

“The other major project,” Themig said, “is the new, wider, floodproof Minnesota River bridge at 101 in Shakopee, which will have trail connectivity. We’re making some progress after many years of planning.”