Greenways coming together in Dakota County

Open house for Rich Valley, greenway connectivity plans May 16 in Rosemount

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The newest segment of the Mississippi River Trail through beautiful Spring Lake Park Reserve will be held May 20 at the park east of Rosemount.

Dakota County is in the middle of a multi-year plan to create about 200 miles multi-functional greenway trails throughout the county and officials are updating plans and looking for input.

An open house is scheduled 4:30-6:30 p.m. May 16 at the Rosemount Community Center, 13885 South Robert Trail, to highlight plans for both the Rich Valley Greenway Master Plan and the Central Greenway Connectivity Study.

John Mertens, a senior planner with Dakota County, said bike ownership is growing exponentially across the country and the Twin Cities has been a leader in providing trails and access for bikers. Mertens is hoping the Dakota County can mirror their success on a suburban scale.

“We want to connect people with places they want to go,” he said. “Places like commercial areas, parks, schools, churches, where ever people want to be riding bikes. … Hennepin County and Ramsey County are doing some pretty amazing things with regional trails. All the systems are connecting. I hope that’s the way it looks in Dakota County one day. They’re huge community amenities that really provide public value from a recreation and transportation standpoint.”

Officials from Dakota County will be on hand to gather public comments on both plans and answer questions during the open house.

One concern they hear from residents is that they would rather a bike trail not be in their backyard.

“Most of the trails for (River Valley) go through established right of way or Flint Hills,” Mertens said. “They don’t want it to go through their property, but they tend to like it if it’s close by. ”

People give advice for routes and question the funding. They don’t want to disturb other quiet places, either.

The Rich Valley Greenway is a five-mile corridor from Eagan to the Mississippi River, which passes through Inver Grove Heights.

County officials are working on a master plan and hoping to identify trail alignment, trail head locations and other amenities.

“Most of our greenways use existing trails when we can,” Mertens said. “We don’t want just trails along the roads. We’re tying to take advantage of new development when we can.”

The Central Greenway Connectivity project hopes to identify and improve bike and pedestrian connections between existing and future greenways through Dakota County.

Mertens said a big part would be adding more signs and maps.

It’s being done because of a strong desire by the public to keep commuter and transportation cyclists off trails within Lebanon Hills Regional Park.

There’s plans for a paved connector trail between popular hubs within the park, but it would not be part of the greenway system.

Mertens said the idea is to make it less appealing for higher speed bicyclistd by providing an alternative around the park, Mertens said.

The connector trail would be for walkers and recreational bikers.

The study found that it would be slower for a commuting cyclist to take the narrow, winding connector trail than to take a linking route around the park.

The two plans are expected to be complete by then end of summer and implemented over the next 20 years.

The Eagan Core Greenway, Mendota-Lebanon Hills Greenway, Rich Valley Greenway, Vermillion Highlands Greenway, Rosemount Greenway and the North Creek Greenway would all begin near Lebanon Hills and connect places such as the Mississippi River, the Minnesota River, St. Paul and Minneapolis.

“We have about half of the trails funded or a trail in place,” Mertens said. “It’s been an incremental process. We’ve done lot over the last five years and we have a lot planned for the next five years. We’ve been successful in getting federal dollars, but based on the way funding works now it might slow down a bit. But we have the opportunity to work with cities to get some things done.”

Some pieces will be put in place soon.

A five-mile section in Spring Lake Park will open up later this month along with four miles of the Mississippi River Trail. Four miles along Black Dog Lake in Burnsviille are nearing completion.

A mile south of Big Rivers Regional Trail will begin construction next fall.

“In the next five years we’ll have a trail system that follows both rivers in the county,” Mertens said. “It’s an exciting time.”

  • Dakota County Planners need to be reminded we are a rural suburban area; we are not a densely populated urban area like Ramsey and Hennepin Counties. Our property tax payers are on average more into vehicle commuting to work for long distances and not taking a bicycle.

    The feedback the County is getting from residents is vastly “Do not build new trails”. It is not just “Not in my backyard.” The County Planners are taking wide latitude when they say “people want this.” The expensive surveys they are sending out are easily crafted and twisted to make it appear otherwise.

    There was a HUGE public outcry against the paving of Lebanon Hills. I will remind the County Planners that over 650 people wrote “don’t build it” letters to the County to the 22 people who said “yes”. Where exactly is this public desire to spend this money?

    Spring Lake Park’s new trail and bike highway is a perfect example of government over reach. Eminent Domain was used to steal private land. Major environmental destruction of the river bluffs was incurred in building that section of the trail.
    In the coming decade Dakota County needs 1 Billion in infrastructure work (roads, bridges, sewers).

    Why are we wasting 100 Million on this trail and other connections? Federal Money, The MN Legacy Fund, and local tax dollars… it all adds up.