A key link connecting biking and walking trails in Hennepin and Scott counties has been approved by Bloomington over the objections of some homeowners.
The 1.5-mile Hyland Trail will be constructed next year, with an expected opening in August. It will link to trails in Edina and Eden Prairie and to the Bloomington Ferry Bridge, which leads to Shakopee and the Minnesota Valley State Trail. It also will connect with trails along the Minnesota River.
“This fits a wide variety of users,” said Shelly Pederson, Bloomington city engineer. “We believe it will be well used.”
The City Council approved the trail by a 5-2 vote last week. It will run from Hyland Park south on Bush Lake Road, west on W. 106th Street and south on Bloomington Ferry Road.
While Bloomington has re-striped roads to create bike lanes, until the Hyland Trail came up, the city had not had a recent bout with the hot political issue of building an off-road trail that crosses front yards and changes landscapes. Though city surveys show residents want more walking and biking trails, people who live along trail routes usually object.
Ninety-five percent of the Hyland Trail will be built on city right of way, passing in front of residences that generally are set well back from streets. The city held two public meetings and met individually with seven households about the project. But residents who live along the south portion of the trail reiterated their concerns before the City Council last week, worried about safety and loss of trees.
Wayne Lee, representing the board of the Rivercrest Townhome Association, told council members that residents were concerned about the mix of pedestrians, dogs and bikes on a trail that will cross the drive that enters the development.
“Moving bike traffic off the road and closer to our entrance point is a concern for us,” Lee said. “We remain united in our opposition to this project. If it goes forward, please put the lower section of the path on the road to avoid our property.”
Lee Bass lives near the trail route and said that twice a day she walks up and down a steep hill near the trail route’s south end. Cyclists now use the road, she said, and she sees no need for an off-road path.
“The people who ride there are off-road bikers,” she said. She said recreational bikers and families are unlikely to use the new path because children won’t be able to manage the hill. “I think this is just a bad use of a lot of money,” Bass said. “This is why people get mad at government.”
But the city won a $540,000 federal grant for trail construction based on a plan for an off-road path. Changing those plans could endanger all or part of that funding. The rest of the trail’s $1.2-million cost is being paid for by up to $660,000 from the city. The city share will drop if Bloomington wins a $150,000 grant from the state.
The trail route approved by the council had been shifted to avoid removal of large oak trees. Pederson said the city would try to protect those trees from construction damage but said she could not guarantee that they will not suffer because of work in the area.
Council Members Tom Hulting and Vern Wilcox voted against the trail plan. Hulting said the trail route was “not family friendly” and suggested putting a bike lane on the road. Wilcox said he doubted the trail would get much use and that it would be too expensive.
But other council members said they had received e-mails and calls in support of the trail, and pointed to community surveys that put walking and biking trails at the top of residents’ wish lists for city amenities.
“This is what people are looking for,” said Council Member Tim Busse. “I’m looking at this as a communitywide asset.”