Three Rivers Park District will mark the grand opening later this month of its scenic Dakota Rail Trail between Wayzata and St. Bonifacius -- 13 miles of paved bike and walking paths that weave along the inlets of Lake Minnetonka, providing spectacular views along the way.

THE TRAIL is built on the former Dakota Rail roadbed, which stretches 44 miles to Hutchinson, Minn. The Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA), along with Carver and McLeod counties' railroad authorities, bought the corridor in 2001.

The park district spent $5.9 million to pave the Hennepin County portion of the trail and has a long-term agreement with the county to operate it. In the other two counties, the trail is slated for development later.

"Everybody who has ridden it gives it rave reviews,'' said Wayzata City Manager Allan Orsen.

"The vistas are spectacular,'' said Barbara Fisher, Three Rivers' communications manager.

PARKING IS AVAILABLE at both ends of the trail as well as at several sites along the way: In St. Bonifacius, at City Hall off Hwy. 7; Wayzata has six to eight spaces in a lot used primarily for its beach, and in Mound, in its downtown transit center that adjoins the trail.

AMENITIES: In the towns along the trail there are also places to eat, get water and use restrooms. In Navarre, the trail passes a small commercial area with a Culver's, Dairy Queen and Lund's grocery. Lord Fletcher's is a quarter-mile from the trail. St. Bonifacius also has a small bistro and other eateries.

GRAND OPENING: While the trail is already open to riders and walkers, grand-opening festivities scheduled for June 20 will be centered in Mound, where a 5-kilometer walk will start on the trail at 10 a.m.

BENEFITS ALREADY APPARENT: In St. Bonifacius, the trail has already brought so many new people to town that the city is considering turning an old public works building into a market catering to trail users, Mayor Rick Weible said. The goal is to have the market open by July 4.

Weible has seen swans, beaver, deer and other wildlife on the trail. "You don't realize the diversity of nature that is back there,'' he said.

Three Rivers is promoting the trail for transportation as well as recreation. Residents of the surrounding communities can walk or bike to the Mound transit center and take a bus to work in Minneapolis, Fisher said.

Laurie Blake • 612-673-1711