After eight years of planning and construction, the city of Afton is adding the final touches on $22 million in improvements to its downtown.
“If you think of the Old Village as our diamond, it’s like we gave it a new setting,” said City Administrator Ron Moorse.
In addition to reconstruction of the St. Croix Trail — the main street through downtown — projects included upgrades to the flood levee and the sewer and stormwater systems. The floodgate opening in the levee was completed in recent weeks. Now, Moorse said, the work is more aesthetic: finishing the paving and landscaping around the trail system. That work is expected to wrap up this month.
Making Afton’s downtown more inviting for pedestrians was one of the project goals, said City Council Member Bill Palmquist.
Over the past several months, as the orange cones have disappeared and the big projects completed, Palmquist has noticed more people exploring the Old Village. He hopes that will mean more business for downtown shops, which took a hit last summer during construction.
“Overall, I do hope people feel that the changes didn’t diminish the historic character of the town,” he said.
Washington County and the state’s Department of Natural Resources and Pollution Control Agency helped fund the projects, as did the Valley Branch Watershed District and the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources. Property owners in the downtown area pay assessments for a portion of the project. Without funding from the other agencies, Afton “couldn’t have even dreamt of completing all this,” Moorse said.
A celebration is planned for the spring. In the meantime, Moorse hopes that residents and visitors tour the Old Village, calling it the foundation for new opportunities ahead.