Without ceremony, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced last week that it had convened a final “public review and comment period” in advance of construction of proposed 13½ miles of the Minnesota Valley State Trail, from the Bloomington Ferry Bridge to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, all in Bloomington.
Meanwhile, to the north, in the Carver Park Reserve, also without pomp or marching bands, preliminary work continued on sections of the Baker/Carver Regional Trail, which is eventually supposed to run 17 miles north from the Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail to the Lake Independence Regional Trail in Baker Perk Reserve — and along the way intersect with both the Dakota Regional Trail and the Luce Line State Trail.
These quiet events were certainly celebrated elsewhere — probably with clinked beer steins over unfolded maps — by the region’s extended bike path adventurers. For they know that these two projects will plug significant gaps in the region’s network of bike paths and in the process create untold opportunities for extended cruising.
The Minnesota Valley and Baker/Carver projects will also begin to rebalance the compass of the region’s bike path map.
For whatever reason, the Twin Cities long distance bike paths are dominated by east-west routes. For example, it is possible to ride due east on a bike path from Mayer in far Carver County for roughly 70 miles to Stillwater in Washington County and be inconvenienced by only a few traffic lights in St. Paul. Want to ride from Anoka south to Bloomington or vice versa? A thousand turns and a lot of bad shoulders await you.
The new projects will make a historic contribution to change that. The Minnesota Valley segment — actually authorized by the Legislature in 1969 but not fully funded until 2014 with $2.164 million — will connect with the Big Rivers Trail across from Fort Snelling at the Minnesota Wildlife Refuge. With current paved routes already in place, the new segment will mean a virtually uninterrupted ride from Chaska to downtown St. Paul (with, of course, options for the Gateway and Vento state trails eastward and northward from there).
Think of the Baker/Carver path as a big north-south arch that crosses the Luce, the Dakota Rail and Lake Minnetonka LRT trails, creating the chance for big, uninterrupted, 40-, 50- or 60-mile loops around Lake Minnetonka from the lakes or downtown in Minneapolis.
But the big celebrations — all those rides — will have to wait a bit. The DNR’s plan has construction in the Minnesota Valley in the next two construction seasons. The Three Rivers Parks has only “anticipated construction” on 1.7 miles of trail in Carver Park next spring. The rest of the route is listed as “future construction.” But what a future.
Call it Lone Lake II: The city of Minnetonka announced the other day that it had indefinitely postponed a final decision on its proposed 5-mile mountain bike project in Lone Lake Park, an idea that has drawn equal measures of enthusiasm and opposition. The city cited pending litigation, mainly on environmental grounds, for the delay.
Meantime, I have heard from a number of mountain biking advocates and enthusiasts who felt I had been taken in by alarmists. A recent column congratulated the city for responding to the growing need for accessible mountain bike trails but suggested (along with many of the park’s current users) that adding 5 miles of those trails to an established suburban park might be creating conflict, with the cyclists displacing people rather than sharing the park with them.
The mountain bikers’ message was this: Other than a few scattered incidents, mostly elsewhere, conflict between mountain bikers and other trail and park users is in fact rare. Examples of successful coexistence can be found locally in similar circumstances at Valley View Park in Oak Park Heights and West Lake Marion Park in Lakeville. Most riders in those parks, and presumably in Lone Lake, would be local people who arrive on their bikes, we are told. And, finally, the mountain bike proposal is based on research and facts, not unfounded fears.
The mountain bikers’ case, if sound, has obviously not been shared with the hundreds of people of Minnetonka who have shared those fears with the city. Could this indefinite postponement of the Lone Lake project be an opportunity for some people to get to know each other?
Bike map mystery: A correspondent wrote, “There used to be a wonderful Interactive bike route map at (the city of Minneapolis website). I can no longer find it and I can’t find a decent online substitute. Help!” That mystery was put to Matthew Dyrdahl, Minneapolis bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, who wrote: “The bike map was old and we have not updated it, so it was removed from the website.”
My follow up question: Does the city plan to update and repost the interactive bike map? After two weeks, no response.
Quite a scene: This weekend, the Minnesota High School Cycling League will convene its season championship race at Mount Kato ski area in Mankato. Racers from 63 teams will compete in the largest race of a seven-race season that drew 1,500 high school mountain bike racers from across Minnesota, western Wisconsin, and parts of North and South Dakota.
Tony Brown is a freelance writer from Minneapolis. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. See an archive of his columns at startribune.com/bikeguy.