Construction is slated to start this week on extending the Lake Wobegon Regional Trail from St. Joseph to Waite Park — a much-anticipated project a decade in the making that will allow bicyclists and pedestrians to reach existing trails in St. Cloud.

Stearns County commissioners this month approved the $2 million construction contract for building the 3.2-mile paved extension, part of a $4.9 million project. Work is expected to start Tuesday and could finish by spring or as soon as this fall, said Peter Theismann, Stearns County parks director.

The popular trail, which opened in 1998, starts in St. Joseph and goes about 60 miles northwest to Osakis, traversing a scenic area. But leaders have long wanted to connect it to the more populated St. Cloud area and the Mississippi River. It took about 10 years to get permission to build a trail extension next to a rail line and acquire small parcels of land.

An estimated 125,000 people use the trail each year. The Lake Wobegon Trails Association also recently added bike repair stations in seven cities along the trail — St. Joseph, Avon, Albany, Freeport, Melrose, Sauk Centre and Holdingford.



City proposes sales tax for street maintenance

In a town notorious for its potholed streets, city leaders in Duluth are proposing a new 0.5 percent transportation sales tax to go toward fixing the problem.

The tax would generate about $7 million a year, tripling the city’s investment to $10 million, according to a city web page outlining the proposal. Ideally, the city should be investing about $25 million a year, the page says.

Street maintenance is now paid entirely by property tax. Duluth has 86,293 residents, but more than 35,000 commute to the city, which also welcomes 6.7 million visitors each year. The sales tax would share some of the burden with others who use the streets.

In a 2015 citizens’ survey, 91 percent of Duluth residents lacked confidence in city streets, more than 55 percent of which are listed in critical condition.

Voters could get a chance to endorse or deny the sales tax idea on the Nov. 7 ballot.



Plans unveiled to turn pool into water park

The city’s municipal swimming pool could be transformed into a water park with a raft ride, slides and zero-entry pool under a plan presented to city officials last week.

Two options presented in a feasibility study estimate the cost between $6.4 million and $6.7 million.

The park would include a splash pad with play features such as pop-jets and bubblers, a zero-depth entry pool, lap lanes and a body slide and tower. A second phase could include a “lazy river” float feature.

The city’s Tourtellotte Aquatic Center Pool was built in 1939 and renovated in 1982.