Washington County is continuing down a path to put in a major trail in the southern part of the county.

The county's Parks Division published its final draft of the master plan for the Point Douglas Regional Trail and Trailhead in March. While initial planning for the trail started in 2003, preparations for the master plan began last April, resulting in open houses, county and township board meetings, and commission meetings over the course of the past year.

"It's been a very public process," said Washington County parks Director John Elholm. "We've got some great comments from citizens."

The county also met with residents whose homes are near the trail to get their comments, he said. Overall, the trail has received a lot of public support, but Elholm said the finished plan does not mean the trail will be constructed anytime soon.

"It's just about getting the plan in place, and once funding becomes available, you start putting the pieces together," he said. "We're looking at five years at the earliest."

The Washington County Board approved the plan in February. It will go to the Metropolitan Council for approval, making it eligible for a variety of funding sources. The plan estimates the trail will cost about $1.5 million.

The 2 1/2-mile trail would extend from Prescott, Wis., to Hastings along Hwy. 10 and the Mississippi River, passing through Point Douglas County Park. The Point Douglas trail would serve as a link to other trails and parks in Dakota and Washington counties, most notably the planned St. Croix Valley Regional Trails.

Point Douglas County Park would become the trailhead for both trails, resulting in the park undergoing amenities upgrades, such as restrooms and picnic tables, to fill that role. An estimated 150,000 residents would use the trail a year, according to the plan.

The plan outlines other aspects of the trail, such as environmental preservation, trailside amenities and signage. "We look forward to someday getting it built," Elholm said.

The County Board will hold a public hearing to review the Point Douglas plan at 9 a.m. on April 10 The hearing will take place in the board room of the Washington County Government Center, at 14949 62nd St. N., Stillwater.

The full plan can be read at: www.startribune.com/a1163.

Andrew Johnson is a University of Minnesota journalism student on assignment for the Star Tribune.