Farmington is part of plan envisioning a trail-friendly future

by Jennifer Chick
Sun Thisweek

At Tuesday night’s public input meeting at Lebanon Hills Visitor Center in Eagan, Kurt Chatfield, right, a planner with the Dakota County Office of Planning, visits with Eagan residents John and Danielle Plut, and Tim Solomonson, an employee with HKGI, the company helping Dakota County plan and landscape its greenways. Dakota County is proposing a 200-mile network of multi-use paved trails throughout the county. The Lake Marion/South Creek Greenway is an 18-mile route from Farmington to Burnsville. Photo by Jennifer Chick

At Tuesday night’s public input meeting at Lebanon Hills Visitor Center in Eagan, Kurt Chatfield, right, a planner with the Dakota County Office of Planning, visits with Eagan residents John and Danielle Plut, and Tim Solomonson, an employee with HKGI, the company helping Dakota County plan and landscape its greenways. Dakota County is proposing a 200-mile network of multi-use paved trails throughout the county. The Lake Marion/South Creek Greenway is an 18-mile route from Farmington to Burnsville. Photo by Jennifer Chick

Planning, and dreaming, has begun on the Lake Marion/South Creek Greenway, which will cover 18 miles from Farmington to Burnsville.

On Tuesday night at the Lebanon Hills Visitor Center in Eagan, the Dakota County Parks and Recreation Department held the first of two meetings to gather public input on the proposed routes for the Lake Marion/South Creek Greenway and the Mendota/Lebanon Hills Greenway.

“We are trying to create a linear park over the whole 18 miles,” said John Mertens, senior planner with the Dakota County Office of Planning. “Trail-based recreation is the number one request we are getting.”

The Twin Cities area is very bike-friendly, Mertens said, with many developed trails in Hennepin and Scott counties. Dakota County is hoping to use its proposed greenways as a way to connect the whole regional area. The paved greenways will connect areas of public use, such as parks, schools, lake trails, playgrounds and libraries, for walking, biking and in-line skating. Planners are trying to utilize existing trails when possible. Mertens said the routes use borrowed views, such as open spaces already created by parks, schools and developments, to create more scenic and natural routes.

There is a national movement to transform simple trails into multi-functional corridors, and Dakota County wants to be a part of that with its Dakota County Greenway Vision 2030. The Dakota County Greenway Vision is proposing a network of more than 200 miles of multi-functional corridors. While planning the greenways, Dakota County will be focusing on four areas: habitat, recreation, non-motorized transportation, and water quality.

“It was a big connect-the-dot exercise when we were drawing the lines,” Mertens said.

Each year, the Office of Planning is creating two master plans for greenways. Starting in the summer of 2012, planners began routing the Lake Marion/South Creek Greenway and the Mendota/Lebanon Hills Greenway. By early summer, hopes are to finalize the master plans and approvals.

Mertens said it could take as much as 20 years before the lines on the map become reality, but the planning office wanted to create a master plan so if developers were building along any of the routes, they could see where the county is hoping to put trails and might even begin developing those trails as they build neighborhoods.

“Hopefully, we wake up and it’s all connected someday,” Mertens said.

The Lake Marion/South Creek Greenway will connect the Minnesota River in Burnsville to Rambling River Park in Farmington. In the Farmington area, the greenway will travel five miles between the downtowns of Lakeville and Farmington, eventually traveling onto existing trails at the Rambling River Park in Farmington and connecting to the North Creek Greenway. Mertens said the route is pretty consistent with what Farmington has already set out in its parks and recreation planning, but the final route will be tweaked as the planning office receives public input.

“What we are learning, based upon our experience with the Mississippi River Greenway, it isn’t set in stone until the time we are drawing the final design and engineering,” Mertens said.

He said the greenway will come together in pieces and won’t be identifiable until it’s one connected piece. As the greenway is being designed, planners hope to take the route over and under major roads for safety.

Kurt Chatfield, another planner with the Dakota County Office of Planning, said that 80 percent of the greenway will not run along a road. The goal is to create an open space with a natural experience.

“Communities have invested so much in their parks systems, and these greenways will connect people to those parks,” Chatfield said.

The Big Rivers Trail in the Mendota area has already been developed. Chatfield said an estimated 140,000 people use that 3 1/2-mile trail every year.

Currently, there is no price tag for the Lake Marion/South Creek Greenway, but Chatfield said figures should be available in about three months. Funding will come from the county and communities, as well as federal transportation grants, Metro Parks Open Space Funds, and Legacy Funds from the sales tax increase passed in 2008.

  • Research before you buy

    I can already ride my bicycle from lake Marion to Farmington on existing bike path trails

  • Should have done your due diligence

    From article above: ““Trail-based recreation is the number one request we are getting.”…and…”Funding will come from the county and communities, as well as federal transportation grants, Metro Parks Open Space Funds, and Legacy Funds from the sales tax increase passed in 2008.” (Too late…you’ve probably already paid for it!)

  • Pam Steinhagen

    We would love to see the Greenway project here in Lakeville. Many residents here are already very active and would benefit from this.. We hope this project would draw many more families to this community to live and play. The Rail tracks would be a great source for this, it might even be a good solution for the 185th round about and coridoor expansion project as well. It would be a great asset to our community. It would also clean up county road 50, a main thorough fair to our city. Rails to trails is our vote!!

    • Lakeville Larry

      There are already trails ALL along county road 50 in Lakeville. There are trails up and down Ipava if you want to get to burnsville. trails between lakeville and Farmington already exist. trails between lake and dowtown already exist. trails from Belsers all the way up Cedar into Apple Valley. Putting a trail where the rail is would be a duplication of existing trails. It just makes zero sense

      • Should have done your due diligence

        Larry, according to the Dakota County Office of Planning. “Trail-based recreation is the number one request we are getting.” so I think you are in the minority. As they said, they are trying to create a ‘linear park’ that will connect schools, parks, etc. I think you are exaggerating if you are saying these trails already exist. From the Metro Bike Trails Guide: “Dakota is one of the least developed of the five counties, and it is — surprisingly enough — the largest. Their growing trail system is still intimate.”

        • Love the water

          You are wrong. Within Lakeville, the bike paths already connect all elementary schools, three junior highs and both high schools. Lakeville has already done an excellent job connecting northern lakeville with southern lakeville. Maybe the rest of Dakota County is way behind, but Lakeville is not. Just admit the only reason you want the greenway is because you own a house by the tracks. You are looking for a homestead gov’t bailout.

    • Love the water

      There are already trails where the 185th round about is going in. Do you people even live in Lakeville? Take the blinders off. Clearly you don’t use the trails because you have no clue that they exist. The trails are already here!

      • Should have done your due diligence

        “I” am wrong? Those quotes are from other people, not me. Do you even ride a bike? I think the idea is to create a linear park that connects parks and schools and the rest of the Dakota County, hence the name “master plan”. The trail is not just Lakeville, it goes THROUGH Lakeville. As quoted above, these are from taxes from 2008 and other misc funds, so too late, you’ve probably already paid for this. If you only just live in Lakeville, not on the tracks, do you really want profanity-filled railcars up & down Hwy 50, or worse yet, light rail or freight rail blasting through town? Are you insane????

        • Love the water

          Actually, I do ride a bike almost everyday during the summer months along the paths within Lakeville, Farmington, the southern part of Apple Valley and the southern portion of Burnsville. That’s why I already know that the City of Lakeville has done a tremendous job building greenways around our city.

          Wasting money buying up overpriced train tracks is what is insane and that is the position all of you anti-progressive rail people are – insane(and naive to buy a house next to a train track)

      • Ryan

        I’m an avid cyclist living in Lakeville, and though there are trails I would never ride on them. They are not maintained, congested with dog walkers and baby strollers, not to mention the every 100 ft having to deal with a side street. An over sized sidewalk is NOT a trail. Dakota County in General is far behind the other counties and needs to prioritize trails to connect with the rest of the twin cities trails.

  • Lakeville Larry

    I agree with Love the water’s postings. You guys are clearly anti-Progressive Rail – maybe former employees, maybe you own a house next to a train track, maybe you love unions – whatever your situation is, the City of Lakeville has done an outstanding job over the years creating paths in Lakeville to get people around lakeville by foot or bike. The city was proactive to make developers foot most of the original construction costs. Dakota County’s plan to build a greenway to connect the county may be a great idea, but they need to develop a plan to connect into Lakeville’s already exisiting project.

    • Should have done your due diligence

      Yes, I”m anti-blight, anti-dumping of environmental hazards, anti-firing employees who they think make too much money. If the greenway were to use the rail corridor it would be a win-win for everyone. It’s a big if, but I think we should take advantage of that opportunity if it’s presented to us. Maybe you were insane to buy a house in Dakota County if you don’t like their plan for the trail system. Try Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, etc.

  • A. Smith

    http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/194424581.html
    Twin Cities bikers up 50%, walkers 20%! YES to Dakota County Greenway Project, NO to Progressive Rail blight & residential railcar storage, NO to light rail. Estimated cost to build Dan Patch light rail in 2010 dollars? $441 million.

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