Wayzata took a step closer last week to extending a popular bike and walking trail through its downtown and along the city’s lakefront, where it’s planning an ambitious beautification project.
The City Council chose a plan to reroute the Dakota Rail Regional Trail from Ferndale Road to Lake Street, the city’s shop- and restaurant-lined waterfront boulevard, as far as Broadway Avenue.
The trail extension is in connection with the Lake Effect, the name the city has given to its $15 million lakefront plan. The Dakota Trail will be part of the project, running four blocks on the shore side of Lake Street and offering lanes for bikes and pedestrians that are buffered from car traffic and each other by trees and vegetation.
Other Lake Effect features will include parks, a boardwalk and a multiuse plaza. Construction on the first phase is expected to begin this fall and be completed in 2020.
“The priorities of the project are water-quality improvement, providing a better connection to the lake and providing a public space for the community to gather,” said Jeff Thomson, Wayzata’s planning and building director.
The Dakota Trail curves around the north shore of Lake Minnetonka, stretching west about 14 miles from Wayzata through Orono, Mound and other lakeside cities, eventually reaching St. Bonifacius and heading from there into Carver County.
Three Rivers Park District, which manages the regional trail system, has committed to paying the $500,000 cost of building the trail along the plaza in the Lake Effect plan.
The trail does not currently reach the point on Lake Street where the Lake Effect area will begin; it terminates at Shaver Park, a couple of blocks southwest. Currently, bikers and pedestrians must cross a parking lot, streets and a railroad track to go from the trail to downtown Wayzata.
The plan selected last week by the council will require removal of only nine trees to give cars space to wait at a train crossing. Other concepts would have required removal of as many as 33 trees.
Three Rivers will pay for that stretch of the trail too, said Jonathan Vlaming, associate superintendent of planning and design for the district.
“Getting through downtown Wayzata has always been one of the most difficult challenges,” Vlaming said.
He added that the Lake Effect offers an opportunity to partner with the city and piggyback on its construction.
The Dakota Trail opened in 2008 and receives about 500,000 visits a year, Vlaming said. Eventually, the district wants to extend the trail eastward another few miles to Minnetonka City Hall at Minnetonka Boulevard and Williston Road, where it would connect with the Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail running through Hopkins, Minnetonka, Excelsior and Victoria.
“We’re working to create loops around Lake Minnetonka with the regional trail network,” Vlaming said. “People love loops.”
In addition to the Three Rivers contribution, the Lake Effect project is being funded by a public-private partnership that includes Wayzata, the state and the Lake Effect Conservancy, a fundraising organization. The conservancy has committed to raising $10 million in private donations and has raised $1.6 million so far, said Andrew Mullin, a former Wayzata City Council member who chairs the effort.
“In the end you’ll have three parks and a boardwalk with a beautified streetscape, resulting in a more clean, welcoming and connected lakefront for Wayzata,” Mullin said.