ST. CLOUD – A quiet respite hidden along the Sauk River between Sartell and St. Cloud is slated to become the area's newest mountain biking trail.
But before Sartell officials can transform some of the 45-acre Sauk River Regional Park into trails fit for fat tires and mountain bikes, they're hoping to swap land with St. Cloud to create a contiguous area on the western side of the river.
On Monday, St. Cloud City Council will consider approving the exchange of about 11 acres of parkland for about 14 acres on the eastern side of the river.
"The river makes a more natural boundary," said Jon Halter, Sartell city engineer. "All of Sartell's park property would be adjacent to each other on the same side of the river and then we can expand our mountain biking trail."
The project is funded through a $450,000 state grant that will also fund lighting, signage and paved trail improvements at the park.
St. Cloud's Whitney Park, just south of the Sauk River, has several athletic fields. But formal plans never materialized for the city's 11 acres on the other side of the Sauk River, according to Scott Zlotnik, St. Cloud parks director.
"We were really impeded by access," Zlotnik said, noting the only connection to St. Cloud's land on the west side of the river was a small pedestrian bridge from the Works Progress Administration era. "From a pure planning perspective, [the land swap] seems to make sense."
Zlotnik said he anticipates St. Cloud's newly acquired parkland will remain green space, possibly with trails and seating.
In May, Sartell City Council approved an agreement with Colorado-based International Mountain Bicycling Association to design the bike trail, which is aimed at beginner- to intermediate-level bikers and will include a practice area near the trailhead.
"We don't live in Colorado, but we do have about 20 feet of elevation from the top of the park down to the river so there's a fair amount of elevation for them to work with and try to create some unique features," Halter said. "There are a few other mountain biking trails in the St. Cloud area but I think this one will be unique.
"The other trails, I think, have just morphed into the bike trails. This one, from the get-go, will be designed and constructed specifically with mountain biking in mind."
Minnesota is home to many mountain biking trails but only a few are in the St. Cloud area, including about 2 miles at Quarry Park in Waite Park, about 8 miles on the southeast side of St. Cloud and about 3 miles at River Bluffs Regional Park in south St. Cloud.
Halter anticipates trail construction to begin this fall, with the trail opening next spring.
Jenny Berg • 612-673-7299