Tobacco use banned on county properties

Freeborn County has joined a growing number of Minnesota counties that have gone tobacco-free, prohibiting smoking on county properties.

The new ban in the southern Minnesota county took effect in July after it was approved unanimously by the County Board earlier this year. The ban excludes the county’s parks and fairgrounds but prohibits all tobacco use, including e-cigarettes, by county staff and visitors on the rest of county properties.

The county said the new policy will promote healthy workplaces and contribute to reducing the harms of secondhand smoke. Visitors who violate the policy may be asked to leave the properties while county staff members who violate it could be disciplined.

In 2011, Hennepin County gained national attention when it prohibited tobacco use on all county properties, except roads and right-of-ways. Across Minnesota, several other counties have followed up with their own tobacco-free policies for county properties.



Bridge festival goes on, open bridge or not

Planners were excited to organize the first-annual Bridge Daze festival in Virginia after hearing the much-anticipated Hwy. 53 bridge would be open and dedicated on Aug. 18, months ahead of schedule. Then Mother Nature intervened.

With rain slowing construction, the bridge will likely open in mid-September. Nevertheless, organizers decided Bridge Daze would go on.

This weekend’s festival to celebrate the “engineering marvel” uniting Virginia, Eveleth, Mountain Iron and Gilbert will no longer include an organized community walk across the bridge Sunday evening. Instead, 400 people will get to take bus tours midday Sunday. Other events, including a silent film festival and beer tasting, were slated to go on as scheduled.

The yet-to-be-named bridge over the Rouchleau Pit quarry will be among the tallest in the state at 204 feet. Hwy. 53 is being relocated after the mining company that owns land under the old route announced it needed access to ore underneath it.

Pam Louwagie


Lake Wobegone extension groundbreaking this week

Officials on Tuesday will celebrate the groundbreaking of the project extending the popular Lake Wobegon Regional Trail from St. Joseph to Waite Park.

The event will be held at 1:30 p.m. at Rivers Edge Park in Waite Park.

The paved trail will be extended 3.2 miles, allowing bicyclists and pedestrians to reach existing trails in St. Cloud. The trail, a decade in the making, will cost $2 million to build, or $4.9 million total. Construction could wrap up as soon as this fall or by next spring.

An estimated 125,000 people each year use the trail, which opened in 1998, starts in St. Joseph and goes about 60 miles northwest to Osakis.