Extending Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail through Edina, a coveted and controversial stretch that provides a key link in the metro area trail system, received endorsement last week from Three Rivers Park District.

Now it's time to round up the money to pay for it.

Three Rivers, which approved a trail route along Nine Mile Creek, will seek $11 million in federal grants to help build it. The trail, just short of 7 miles, is expected to cost an estimated $20 million, including $5 million for trail bridges over Crosstown Hwy. 62 and Hwy. 100.

Federal awards are expected to be announced in the spring of 2012. The park district said it will also seek funding from Nine Mile Creek Watershed District and the Hennepin County Bicycle Capital Improvement Program.

If the money lines up, construction would start in 2015 or 2016, said Don DeVeau, Three Rivers director of planning and development. When the trail would be finished is uncertain.

Connecting to Hopkins on the west and Richfield on the east, the trail would finally link Edina to hundreds of miles of regional bike and walking trails. Three Rivers has considered Edina "a critical gap in the regional trail system and a community under-served by regional trail opportunities."

The 10-foot-wide trail with 3-foot shoulders would follow city park land along miles of the creek, crossing behind hundreds of homes and passing several parks and schools. For much of the way, a boardwalk would lift the trail above wetlands. East of Hwy. 100, the trail would be created on streets and small sections of park land and the Edina Promenade.

It would be built at the same time the creek banks and channel are stabilized and restored by Nine Mile Creek Watershed District. That work would be done in the winter to minimize disruption to soil.

"It may end up being multiple winters to actually do the whole thing through Edina," said Kevin Bigalke, watershed district administrator.

The watershed district will make field assessments this spring and summer to determine the condition of the creek and the places that need stabilization, Bigalke said.

"The actual alignment of the trail is going to be somewhat contingent upon what we think we need to do to enhance the condition of the creek."

After the field work is finished and restoration plans are drawn, the watershed district will hold public briefings on its project, Bigalke said.

Laurie Blake • 612-673-1711