Despite its fast-growing popularity, the Dakota Rail Regional Trail -- offering scenic views from wetlands to stylish homes on Lake Minnetonka -- still is missing one important attribute.

A place to go.

Unless trail users venture off-trail into the weeds or find an accommodating business along the way, the lack of a public bathroom on the 13-mile trail between downtown Wayzata and St. Bonifacius can turn a relaxing walk or bike ride into a bladder-holding race for relief.

Coming to the rescue is the city of Mound. The city at the trail's midpoint plans to convert a 1934 municipal pump house into a trail restroom by fall. Three Rivers Park District, which oversees the trail, has chipped in $45,000 to help make it happen.

Opened less than two years ago, the paved trail quickly became a hot spot for bicyclists, runners and walkers. Last summer, an estimated 255,000 people traveled along the trail. Use this year is expected to reach 350,000, which would make it one of Minnesota's busiest trails.

The structure has historic value in Mound, and the restroom project fills a void, said City Manager Kandis Hanson.

"There are a lot of businesses being called upon to offer up their bathrooms to trail users when their bathrooms are not intended for public use," she said.

Although Three Rivers does not provide public restrooms on regional trails, the park district agreed to contribute $45,000 toward the Mound restroom because of the trail's popularity and Mound's willingness to maintain it, said Don DeVeau, director of planning and development. The park district also has budgeted $90,000 for more signs and parking for the trail.

The pump house will have a single-stall men's and women's restroom, changing tables, vending machines and possibly drinking water.

The original estimate for the project was $100,000 -- "which sounds absurd," Hanson said. "We are making efforts to pare it way back and keep it basic."

The city has placed the pump house on the north side of the trail just outside its transit station, which has a parking ramp open to trail users. The restroom would serve the transit station, the trail and the city's new farmer's market on the south side of the trail. The market is open from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays.

Trail-side business owners like the idea of a public restroom.

The Mound True Value Hardware gets a constant stream of trail users in the store looking for a bathroom, said co-owner Patti Dodds. She's all for a Mound bathroom stop and wishes someone would open a new eatery to make Mound an even more welcoming point for trail traffic.

The restroom also sounds good to Bob Dobihal, owner of the St. Boni Bistro in St. Bonifacius. The small restaurant, which serves organic and local foods, sits adjacent to the trail endpoint and has become a destination for trail bikers.

To welcome them, Dobihal set out bike racks and patio tables. But an unending stream of bathroom seekers prompted him to post a sign on the front door limiting his bathrooms to patrons.

"I actually had a problem where I had 15 bikers sneak in to use the restroom and the son of one of our patrons had an accident" while waiting, Dobihal said. "I love the bikers, don't get me wrong, but I really have to take care of my patrons first."

Laurie Blake • 612-673-1711