Last chance to ride the Minnesota River Bottoms, a grass-roots bike route that’s soon to be paved

MinnPost photo by Bill Lindeke
For years, this handmade, unofficial path has offered a unique experience to hundreds of bikers and hikers in the Twin Cities.

It’s strange to reconcile mountain biking with some of the flattest land in Minnesota. But that’s what I did the other day, riding on the Minnesota River Bottoms single track, a roughly 10-mile mountain bike path that winds along the Minnesota River floodplain between Shakopee and Bloomington.

For years, this handmade, unofficial path has offered a unique experience to hundreds of bikers and hikers in the Twin Cities. Next year, despite some outcry from the bicycling community, lawmakers and state officials are planning to build a paved path along the route, connecting the Minnesota River Valley into the regional bike trail system. It will mean the loss of today’s pristine experience, but open the space up to many more people.

The symbiotic beauty of mountain biking

I’m not really a mountain biker, but this year I’ve tried it a few times. Compared to bicycling on roads, there’s a special relationship that emerges between you and the path where you’re intimately engaged with the land. As the trail twists and turns, mountain bikers must pay close attention to the constantly changing path. The effect is what the fans call “flow” (kind of like hockey hair), and it can be deeply meditative as you lose yourself in the environment. And along the Minnesota River Bottoms, the path flows through the elms and cottonwoods for long miles, wending from the river to the valley’s patches of grassland, the occasional fallen tree offering an optional obstacle.

“It has a feeling like you’re a million miles from anywhere,” Dennis Porter, who has been riding the river bottoms for years, told me. “You’re in a major metro area, yet you feel like you could be in the middle of the forest hundreds of miles away. Because of its flat terrain, it allows many riders of various abilities to ride the trail. I’ve seen people down there with road bikes and hybrids.”

(For the record, I rode the trail on my Surly Long Haul Trucker, a normal enough stocky road bike, designed for touring.)

Probably the most unique spot in the River Bottoms is the junction with “9 mile creek,” which runs a few feet deep at the trail’s midpoint. There’s no bridge at the creek, so just like the wagons of Oregon Trail, bikers are faced two choices: cross the stream using an awkward handmade raft, or traverse the tree bridge. The raft is a lot of fun, but the tree bridge is beautiful, and offers the kind of organic balance between nature and culture that rarely exists outside the world of fantasy elves.

(For the record, I used the raft.)

MinnPost photo by Bill Lindeke
The awkward handmade raft at the the junction with “9 mile creek.”

The bridge crossings are great examples of the “DIY ethos” of the mountain bicycling community. Much like skateboarders crafting spaces for themselves at the urban margins, mountain bikers volunteer countless hours building and maintaining trails in underused land. The river bottoms trail is designed and maintained by mountain biking groups like Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists (MORC).

“It’s been a volunteer network for over 20 years,” Porter told me. “People come out of the blue and offer to help. We’ve gone down there with mowers and things like that, and a few other trail elves helped clear trees to try to improve sightlines. It’s all volunteer.”

The mostly settled paving debate

Despite the off-road tranquillity, the river bottom path has long been vulnerable to the march of progress. Because accessing today’s dirt trail requires some adventurous clambering, state and local planners envision an easier-to-access paved trail along the riverbank connecting the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge (just East of the Mall of America) all the way to the downstream towns of La Sueur and Belle Plaine. And finally, thanks to a $2.2 million appropriation by the Legislature a few years ago, a paved trail is finally going to be built next year along the riverbank that would tie the River Bottoms into the regional network.

“This is going to hook up to Minneapolis and St. Paul,” Ann Lenczewski, who sponsored the bill in the Minnesota House, excitedly told me. “The whole intercity trail line coming out of the lakes in south Minneapolis will hook up to this; it’ll hook up to the Minnesota Wildlife Refuge Center. You’ll be able to get across to Fort Snelling and cross two counties and the new Cedar Avenue Bridge.”

The trail fits neatly into city and state plans to improve access to the river valley, particularly around the underdeveloped area at the end of the Blue Line, where the Wildlife Refuge is located. It’s part of a larger plan by the city to connect better to the river valley.

“The majority of people in the suburbs are not so young any more,” Lenczewski told me. “[For] Bloomington’s residents, the largest population growth are seniors. They like a paved situation for walking, strollers, and also for most bikers.”

High on list of planners

Because it offered commuting options, connects existing trails, and provides access, the planned trail connection ranks very high in the DNR’s list of projects, almost a holy grail of bike planning. But the plan has upset some of the existing bike trail users, Dennis Porter among them. Porter and others have started a petition to stop the paved trail that has gathered over 3,000 signatures from people who are currently using the path. Porter is convinced that the proposal will ruin the appeal of the existing experience.

“This area in particular has become so popular because it’s natural,” Porter told me. “I’ve been fighting this trail for 25 years. People I talk to when I go down there say, ‘Why would they do that? This is s such a wonderful place.’”

Porter’s case against the DNR’s plan boils down to two things: cost and maintenance. Porter points to an existing $10 million DNR maintenance deficit, and the high expense of similar trails. He and other mountain bikers would rather see a “natural” trail design, with a few improvements but remaining centered on a meandering dirt path.

Who gets access?

There’s always a tension surrounding the best uses for parkland, and balancing between a narrow slice of dedicated users and a broad range of future users is something that planners try to do carefully.

“We want to enhance awareness and access to the Minnesota River Valley while providing environmental protection,” Brett Feldman, the executive director of the Parks and Trails council of Minnesota, told me. “We really want to get people down there. It’s not drawing the [right] numbers of people to appreciate the area. The mountain bike trail is not an authorized trail right now. Some fear it will be removed, [so] right now is an opportunity to protect that trail in perpetuity while getting more access for more people.”

The tree bridge at the the junction with “9 mile creek.”
The tree bridge at the the junction with “9 mile creek.”

While the existing trail might be unique, offering a natural adventure to hundreds of people, for many people like Feldman and Lenczewski, the potential lure of thousands of people using a paved trail outweighs those impacts.

Porter is going to keep fighting the proposal, and holds out hope that budget constraints might stop the project.

“It’s a special place very unlike anything in the Twin Cities,” Porter told me. 
“This place actually grew pretty much organically on its own.”

If you want to see this unique bike trail before it changes, you’d better get down there. I’m glad I finally got the chance. The ribbon cutting for the new path is slated for next spring.

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Comments (64)

  1. Submitted by Dan Lind on 10/01/2015 - 11:34 am.

    Annual Flooding

    It really should have been stressed that the proposed paved trail would be built within a highly volatile floodplain that floods every spring. The current unpaved dirt trail eventually dries out naturally, and MORC volunteers smooth out the ruts so that it’s rideable again. A paved trail that is constantly flooded (along with heaving that will take place in the winter months because of the high water table) is going to be a costly maintenance nightmare. Where the funding will come from to continually fix the paved trail so that it’s usable for seniors, walkers and strollers has not been determined. The Parks and Trails Council continues to ignore this point as they drive forward. I’m guessing this project will end up being a huge fail, and in the process will destroy one of the Twin Cities last “natural” assets.

  2. Submitted by Michael Hess on 10/01/2015 - 11:38 am.

    too bad

    There are so many places in the metro with paved trails. So few like this. Hope nobody gets it in their head that Theodore Wirth needs more access up the mountain biking trails there.

  3. Submitted by Brian Simon on 10/01/2015 - 12:00 pm.

    Cost of flooding?

    I’m a biker & a member of MORC. I often ride the river bottoms on the existing trail, going back nearly 20 years. The proposed trail would theoretically be a great commuting route for me, slightly longer, but eliminating traffic concerns & needing to cross 62, 35W & 494 on bridges shared with cars.

    But… what are the maintenance costs associated with a paved trail down there? The only solid ground is in the bluffs – the rest is all sand and silt. The river floods nearly annually & did so twice in 2014. That cottonwood bridge near the raft arrived last year & was moved this year. Where it will be after next year’s high water is anyone’s guess. The same goes for this paved path. How long will it last? I’very never heard Rep Lenchesky or other proponents address the issue of long term maintenance of this proposal.

    • Submitted by William Lindeke on 10/01/2015 - 02:27 pm.

      lilydale in my neighborhood

      The bike trail in Lilydale near where I live is easily enough maintained, and has the same flooding problems. I’m not convinced by the claims about maintenance costs and skepticism about whether the DNR can handle this. I believe they can.

      • Submitted by Dan Inderieden on 10/01/2015 - 04:04 pm.

        Lilydale not quite the same

        Actually, the Lilydale trail going from Sibley to 35E stays up higher on the bank (above existing railroad grade) and is less prone to flooding. I think following further towards downtown St. Paul on Lilydale road is also a bit less prone to flooding, as it follows the Mississippi river bank, which doesn’t flood as often or severely as the Minnesota River does further upstream in Bloomington and beyond.

        Another thing is that the Minnesota River in Bloomington/Savage twists and turns more, and when the river floods the floodwater tend to cut across the twists and turns. This is where a trail is impacted more by the flooding, as the force of the river can actually wipe out paved sections (as it has done multiple times on the paved section following Bloomington Ferry Road crossing). Also, as many users of the existing trail in Bloomington have seen, flooding deposits large amounts of silt and causes large dead trees to be deposited all over the area. One of the wonderful things about the natural trail is that we simply reroute things to go along with what nature throws at us.

        • Submitted by William Lindeke on 10/01/2015 - 04:42 pm.

          not where I’m talking about

          One of my very first Cityscape columns here at Minnpost was about flooding in Lilydale. (http://www.minnpost.com/cityscape/2014/07/developments-mississippi-bring-risks-rewards-and-debates) You can see a picture of where I’m talking about: it’s the stretch that runs from the Yacht Club to Harriet Island, which was completely re-done recently, but never really had problems that I’m aware of (at least not ones that weren’t caused by building a trail on an historic landfill).

          I agree that the natural trail is wonderful, but don’t share your skepticism that the DNR can’t maintain it a paved trail in this area. Of course they can, though it might be expensive. Then again, it might not.

          • Submitted by Anthony Steyermark on 10/01/2015 - 05:45 pm.

            A better (though still not equal) comparison is the paved trail at Cosby Farms Regional Park in St. Paul. There, the paved trail is a bit lower than that of Lilydale, and so floods more. When I lived a few blocks away from the park and would frequently bike/run/dog walk there, there were several springs that the paved trail was closed, blocked, or broken due to flooding. The trail at the River Bottoms is at time lower (sometime much lower) than that at Crosby Farms. Yes, any trail can be maintained, just like police could do a 100% enforcement of every law, all the time. The question is, at what cost, and is that something that society is willing to pay. In both cases, I think the answer is no.

          • Submitted by Jack Roe on 10/01/2015 - 06:11 pm.

            Lilydale is Everest compared to the River Bottoms Trail

            It’s unlikely you’ll be able to test this out during our usually dry Autumn but it’s nearly certain you’ll be able to next spring. Since you live near the Lilydale Trail just check what the Minnesota River is like at Savage http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=mpx&gage=SAVM5 and when the river is at 700 feet hop on your bicycle and start riding west from Harriet Island. The fixed/rerouted Lilydale path will almost certainly be dry. When you get to Mendota hop on the River Bottoms trail and at some point your progress will be blocked because parts of the trail are covered with water at 700 feet. Officially, flooding doesn’t begin in Savage until the river is at 702 feet. In general, Lilydale is still dry when the Minnesota is at 702 feet while the River Bottoms are not–I’m pretending the Mississippi is behaving, of course, but it is better behaved than the Minnesota. The paved path is going to flood almost every year and it will not be unusual for it to flood twice in a year.

            Since March 24, 2010, there have been four crests at Savage higher than 710 feet. When the river is that high there are lots of large cottonwoods that move around, silt is redeposited, and there is a lot of erosion. I can’t wait to see what sort of damage that is going to do to a paved trail. Throw in the frost heaves another commenter mentioned and I think it’s reasonable to assume that maintenance is going to be expensive. Love to be wrong but looking at the crests since 1997 I don’t think I am. In fact, given that we’ve had three crests at or near 715 feet since 1997 I’m going to predict that during the first 15 years of its life the bridge they’ll need to build over Nine Mile Creek is going to be washed away.

      • Submitted by Bill O'Reilly on 10/01/2015 - 06:11 pm.

        Not even close!! The RB trail is subject to very high speed/massive flows that WILL tear it up on a bigger than normal flood year. Guaranteed! I remember small trees stuck in other trees over 20′ off the ground around 20 years ago. You wouldn’t even be able to FIND an asphalt trail if that happened again.

      • Submitted by Brian Simon on 10/02/2015 - 02:44 pm.

        At what cost?

        It’s less a question of whether than how much. I expect our political representatives to not just build trails, but also figure out what it will cost to maintain them. If this thing requires zero maintenance, it could be a great deal. But, I was down there this AM & one of the MORE built bridges is being undercut by erosion. It is naive & short sighted to assume the same won’t happen to a paved trail. Have you seen any projections for maintenance costs at all? What assumptions have they made? From what I’ve seen, there has been zero consideration of those future liabilities.

  4. Submitted by Jim Boulay on 10/01/2015 - 12:13 pm.

    Trail NOT being eliminated?

    My understanding is that the city of Bloomington/DNR are going to be leaving the natural single track trail and add a second paved trail. I love the trail and they claim they are going to make it a win-win for everyone. It may not be as secluded as it is now but the single track trail is going to stay, not be eliminated. Check with Rep. Lenczewski, she would be able to give you all the details.

    • Submitted by William Lindeke on 10/01/2015 - 02:25 pm.

      That’s what is being said, but people have many doubts

      if you talk to Ann or others (as I did) they say that nothing will change about the existing trail. But mountain bikers are very skeptical about those claims. I guess we’ll find out next year.

      All I know is that it will surely be different. Whether for the better or for the worse depends on who you are, and whether you use the space now.

      • Submitted by Jim Boulay on 10/01/2015 - 09:18 pm.

        Bloomington MV Master Plan

        From the city of Bloomington’s MV Master Plan Summary of Recommendations Final Update Draft 01-06-15, page 4, Minnesota Valley State Trail “The state trail will consist of two trails within a 100′ trail corridor to accommodate a broad spectrum of users. The two trails include a bituminous trail and a natural surface trail.” Also in their planning documents it sounds like 2016 will be for planning the project with construction taking place in 2017. I’m not an advocate for the paved trail but I got the impression from the article that the natural trail was going to be eliminated and Rep Lenchzewski has promised that the natural trail isn’t going to be eliminated, paved or ruined.

  5. Submitted by Dan Inderieden on 10/01/2015 - 02:28 pm.

    Mr. Boulay, you are being sold a bit of snake oil on this idea that 2 trails will exist. There are multiple spots where things narrow down such that the trails would need to run right next to each other and/or cross. Do you realize the extent of tree removal that will be done with building this paved trail? It won’t be the same at all, and it is completely UNNECESSARY!

    I believe that the statement that the current trail is “unauthorized” is not true. Easements for the trail have been granted by the DNR and Izaak Walton league for the trail, and they allow for bicycle use. This isn’t some rogue behavior by bikers to ride there. In fact MORC has specifically gotten permission to do maintenance on the trail.

    It’s also not an “adventure” to gain access to the current trail. Rather, it’s quite easy. As the article states, the bikers are in favor of some improvements, which includes foregoing the current raft/tree at the 9-mile creek crossing by replacing with a more accessible bridge. The bikers just don’t think the whole thing needs to be paved!

    • Submitted by William Lindeke on 10/01/2015 - 03:27 pm.

      “Adventure”

      For many people, it would be. One of the challenges for bicycle advocates and planners is to think about different bodily abilities. For example, if you designing streets for eight-year-olds and eighty-year-olds, then you’ll be creating safe spaces for everyone. I think there is a large number of people who would not go to the trail now, who would go to a paved trail.

      Anyway I like the trail, and am trying to clarify the situation. I hope I did! But you’re right that the trail will “merge” at many places, and also correct that many details are as yet unknown.

      • Submitted by Dan Inderieden on 10/01/2015 - 03:53 pm.

        Why ruin this gem of a trail?

        This trail is unique. This trail is used a lot. This trail is gem that will be lost with these modifications. Is it really worth it? I say NO.

        Here’s another perspective… Natural surface trails for biking that are success stories. Look at the wonderful results at the Cuyuna trail system built by the DNR in near Crosby, MN. Look at the popularity as a result of the improvements to Lebanon Hills and Murphy Hanrehan mountain bike trails. Perhaps this idea of building more and more paved trails is an old idea that hasn’t proven itself. People WANT natural surface trails for recreation.

    • Submitted by Jim Boulay on 10/01/2015 - 09:26 pm.

      You can call me Jim

      I’m only stating what the officials involved in this are telling us. Has anyone seen a route yet to confirm all of these paved trail intersections? People are mad about this so why would the city and the DNR not be responsive to these concerns? I’ve got a couple of buggy whips I can barter you for that Snake Oil shade you’re throwing my way!

  6. Submitted by Josh Leonard on 10/01/2015 - 04:23 pm.

    The author sends the message that a paved trail will harmoniously join with the natural trail in a blissful system that hundreds of thousands flock to the region to enjoy. This is not the opinion of the current user base, as evidenced by the petition count. There also seems to be an undertone of “mountain bikers versus non mountain bikers” which is not the case, mountain bikers just happen to be the most organized and vocal in this discussion. The current user base in favor of leaving the trail unpaved consists of users of many types including hikers, trail runners, bird watchers and cyclists.

    Some critical facts and figures are missing from the article: Actual costs to build and maintain a paved trail, environmental impact in terms of tree loss, potential water pollution from the paving process and pavement, what taxpayer base will be on the hook, etc. Dennis Porter states the DNR has a $10 million maintenance deficit. If the DNR can’t keep up with the trails they have now how can they keep up with this one? The last thing anyone wants to see is a “Trail Closed” sign for most of the summer while we wait for the DNR to “catch up”.

    In other conversations, Ann Lenczewski has stated there is legal documentation supporting a “two trail system” but has failed to provide evidence of this documentation. I have been unable to find the statute/document that specifies two trails will exist in the corridor. Bloomington is already a paradise of pavement with plenty of on and off road options for hard surface recreation. Extending pavement into the unique oasis of the River Bottoms is a foolish use of money now and in the future.

    Money would be much better spent on trail head improvements (bathrooms, signage, etc.), accessible loop trails near trail heads and a new bridge at 9 Mile Creek that would make it easier for all user types to explore and enjoy a larger portion of the system.

    Brett Feldman says “It’s not drawing the [right] numbers of people to appreciate the area” but does not cite numbers of current users/types or numbers they are aiming for. The author goes on to say “While the existing trail might be unique, offering a natural adventure to hundreds of people…”. Hundreds? I guess 3,500+ documented signatures boils down to only hundreds of users? To date I have not seen an official count/survey that documents actual usage of the trail.

    The best thing people can do is educate themselves, ask questions, express their opinions and hold our lawmakers accountable for the things they say and actions they take. You can start researching the movement to keep the trail natural here:
    https://www.facebook.com/SaveTheRiverBottoms

    • Submitted by William Lindeke on 10/01/2015 - 04:48 pm.

      Weighing the present vs. the future is the heart of planning

      One of the points I tried to make is that there is always a tension in planning between current and future users. This is true for everything from street design to developments to city parks, and is certainly true here.

  7. Submitted by Bill O'Reilly on 10/01/2015 - 06:05 pm.

    Absolutely idiotic!! The first ‘normal’ spring flood will bury the trail in silt and sand, and anything bigger (5-6′ over flood stage) will actually tear up the trail and it will float away. This is not like Lilydale or other areas; the bends and twists accelerate the flow and the currents are vicious. Bad idea!

  8. Submitted by Dan Inderieden on 10/01/2015 - 10:41 pm.

    Gee Whiz Captain Obvious

    Of course we can make a nice general statement that says there will always be disagreement between old and new users over what they would like.

    There is also the obvious fact that there is evidence of an abundance of “old” users that are against the trail and a dirth of “new” users that would like this new paved trail.

    Finally, you continue to ignore the additional reasons that keep being brought up about why this is bad idea.

  9. Submitted by Steve Eberly on 10/01/2015 - 11:05 pm.

    Smell the PORK

    This project is nothing but political pork barrel spending. That is what is being called out by the users who are being shamed for that opinion (yes I’m a user too). It’s SO HARD in this country to derail something once it’s been envisioned even when it doesn’t make sense. One perspective the writer could have taken is the merits of that effort this is often the hard detailed reporting we get in MinnPost. Lets face it Ann Lenczewski is an extremely powerful politician who’s used to getting what she wants and no mamby pamby user group is going to get in her way. Her position is that the $2.2M is there so “we’d better spend it or someone else will”. Maybe there’s a better place for the money, like our pockets…..but she’s calculated the political effect and is convinced that it is all positive for her, and it sounds like the writer is happy to go along with the snow job, that’s too bad and I expect more from MinnPost.

    Interesting that it’s all good now with the Cedar Bridge & Trail reconstruction as a commuter connector (holy grail…har har) never mind that this VITAL connection (no, not the river trail that is described in this article) has been closed for going on 10 years with all the infighting between Eagan, Burnsville, Bloomington, Hennepin and Dakota Counties (to name a few). Does the writer talk about that colossal failure by our officials? Why is this mixed in here? Maybe to gloss over the merits of the river trail? And now we are supposed to be happy with Ann saving the day (OMG). The river trail in the article IS NOT a valid commuter route it goes miles out of any sensible commute across Bloomington BTW (look at the map). Yes, the Cedar Bridge reconstruction & Trail and a new connector from the Hwy 77 Bridge to the 35W Bridge WILL BE a good commuter route (North South) but that traverses land that you can’t even ride a MTB bike on reliably most of the year now (note that this IS NOT the route that the writer rode).

    The sweetest justice may yet happen if the trail is constructed over all these objections and we have multiple flooding events for weeks and months (as described above) that will make it impossible to construct (flooding like we have had in at least 7-8 years of the last 25 I’ve been a trail user). Maybe that will get some attention. The amount of flooding down there is frankly unbelievable and few people see it or understand it due to the unique nature that has been described. The area just downstream of the Railroad swing bridge across from Savage is of particular concern, I’d imagine the writer had to push his bike thru that section (I often do) as the sand dunes that have been deposited in that area are feet high as the river jumps it’s bank at that curve and attempts to flow thru Colman Lake and then into Nine Mile Creek + backwaters.

    Clearly as a taxpayer I’m disappointed in our politicians, natural resource professionals and this writer for the latest ho-hum this ones gonna happen what’s wrong with you guys attitude.

    Thank you for letting me vent and for reading this far….

  10. Submitted by jody rooney on 10/01/2015 - 11:27 pm.

    I have a great idea why don’t the free loading bikers

    cough up some money through a trail path to help maintain the trails? Why wouldn’t there be a demand for paved bike trails we all pay for them and the bikers don’t. They are always being offered a free lunch and I think that they have been freeloading enough

    As a horseback rider and a long term trail advocate I find the idea of putting asphalt trails in natural areas is outrageous. If a trail exists and it is passable by off road bikes and hikers that’s good enough. Do we have to keep throwing petroleum based asphalt into the wood near waterways?

    In the past the DNR has not used engineers or landscape architects to design their trails heck they don’t even look at their own design manual when they design. And it is way to hard for them to think about how a shared trail should be designed especially when it comes to shared facilities. I doubt that they are aware of what their maintenance costs are. Annual maintenance costs and periodic replacement costs should be shown to legislators when they make decisions.

    We already have more recreation facilities than the DNR can maintain, yet it is much sexier legislatively to build something new than to maintain something you already have.

    I agree taking this perfectly good unique trail and making it urban is not a wise use of state funds.

    • Submitted by Josh Leonard on 10/02/2015 - 04:15 pm.

      Freeloading?

      Not sure where you are coming from with that comment, but I and several others volunteer countless hours every year to trim sight lines, fix damaged trail tread, remove fallen trees, build/fix bridges, etc.

    • Submitted by William Lindeke on 10/02/2015 - 04:58 pm.

      the “freeloading bikers” rhetoric

      This is a very tiresome line of argument. Bicyclists pay taxes, and impose very few costs on the existing transportation system. Our road funding is very complex, but this report (http://www.frontiergroup.org/reports/fg/do-roads-pay-themselves) does a good job sorting it out. In general, road fees (like the gas tax, license tabs. etc) amount for about half of road costs. The rest comes out of general tax dollars, which bicyclists contribute to. Even a amount of that money proportional to the mode share being spent on bike projects would be a huge increase.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/02/2015 - 05:37 pm.

        And let’s not forget…

        Few of cycle exclusively. Most cyclist also buy and drive cars or trucks so we’re not freeloading no matter how you look at it.

    • Submitted by Tim McNamara on 10/07/2015 - 10:09 pm.

      A great idea

      “I have a great idea why don’t the free loading bikers… cough up some money through a trail path to help maintain the trails? Why wouldn’t there be a demand for paved bike trails we all pay for them and the bikers don’t. They are always being offered a free lunch and I think that they have been freeloading enough”

      Freeloading bikers? Hmmm. This has always been a bit of silliness by the anti-bike brigade. Do the Minnesota Department of Revenue the the DNR keep track of the fact that I am a bicyclist and carve out money from my taxes and state park stickers that would otherwise pay for trails?

      I pay taxes. I have a job and pay taxes on my income. I own a house and pay taxes on that. My company pays *lots* of taxes. I own three cars and pay taxes on those. Heck, I even pay an extra tax that most other people don’t have to pay. I don’t get some kind of tax break for riding my bike. And… the Minnesota River Bottoms Trail as it exists now is maintained for free by volunteer bicyclists! Local bike company QBP has kicked in a lot of support over the years, too, in cash and in-kind investments.

      We agree on not paving it.

  11. Submitted by Alex Bauman on 10/01/2015 - 11:34 pm.

    unpaved trail is difficult to access for most

    A few years ago I had the bright idea to get a hotel room for me and my girlfriend in downtown Chaska, from which we would bike to the Renaissance Festival using the “MN River Bottoms Trail” that had a foggy internet presence (roughly 3.5 mi one-way, assuming the trail existed). We were able to find the trail, but it was all sand and mud, apparently due to a wet summer, and we gave up after much spinning of our wheels. Instead we rode the bone-dry paved trail to Shakopee.

    While there might be legitimate concerns about the maintenance of a paved river bottoms trail, there is very real evidence that the unpaved trail is just as useless in wet years. All balanced out, more people would use a moonscaped paved trail than use the existing mtn bike trail.

    Where do I sign the petition in favor of a paved river bottoms trail?

    • Submitted by Stephen Boyd on 10/02/2015 - 08:32 am.

      The natural trail may be wet and unrideable at times. It’s a natural surface trail. The difference is that it cost the taxpayers nothing to build, nothing to maintain and nothing to replace after a flood event. Can you say the same for a $12,000,000 paved trail?

      This is about common sense and fiscal responsibility. Both of which seem in short supply these days in certain sectors of government….and the public apparently.

      • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/02/2015 - 03:14 pm.

        Trail Cost

        Is the issue really about fiscal responsibility or is it simply being used as the whipping boy to further an agenda?

        I’m just curious as I don’t have a dog int he fight either way, other than a passing interest in the portions of trail that will pass through the Fort Snelling area. It just strikes me that when people get really strident on a particular aspect it’s because they want to distract you from something else.

        • Submitted by William Lindeke on 10/02/2015 - 04:54 pm.

          I tend to trust the politicans…

          …. when they tell me that a trail is fully funded. Who knows. Maybe there will be over-runs, but it’ll pale next to projects like the SWLRT or Stillwater bridge. As Robert Moses proved, once you start building something, you’re going to finish it.

        • Submitted by Stephen Boyd on 10/02/2015 - 06:08 pm.

          The issue is about fiscal responsibility and preserving one of the few completely natural areas in the metro. Are you saying you see spending 12ish million taxpayer dollars to put a trail in a known flood plain with NO plans or budget to maintain it sounds fiscally responsible? I’m a home owner and a taxpayer int he metro. I can think of many, many better ways to spend that kind of money that could and would benefit many more people.

  12. Submitted by Ed Crozier on 10/02/2015 - 12:08 pm.

    Minnesota Valley State Trail Status

    There is no evidence that the Minnesota Valley Chapter of the Izaak Walton League that owns the river valley property traversed by the informal dirt trail used by mountain bikers, has ever formally/legally granted permission to anyone to build or maintain the existing dirt trail across its property. There is no existing trail easement for that portion of the trail so it is unauthorized.

    Nor is there any existing easement for the trail across the wildlife refuge lands. Consequently, without a legal right-of-way through the wildlife refuge the existing mountain bike trail can be legally challenged as an incompatible recreational use on the refuge as per Public Law 105–57 as it is not a wildlife-dependent recreational use.

    A legal right-of-way secured by DNR from the wildlife refuge for the two-track trail would eliminate that threat to the existing mountain bike trail.

    Not mentioned as a benefit of the proposed DNR two-track surfaced and dirt trail is the increase of valley users who will become more aware of the Minnesota River and its conservation needs – primarily improved water quality. Thus there will more be more support of Minnesota River Watershed conservation programs something the limited number of mountain bike users have not demonstrated as being interested in visibly supporting.

    The comparison of the online petitions is meaningless. The 3,000 + signatures opposing the two-track trail system have been generated through the extensive online mountain bike communication system and includes signers from outside Minnesota who have probably never even visited the State. The online petition supporting the State authorized trail was posted on a seldom-viewed web site that is no longer in existence.

    For an unbiased description of the proposed MN Valley State Trail view this YouTube video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ya5HzupQTno

    Ed Crozier
    Former VP of the MNV Chapter of the IWLA and former MNV National Wildlife Refuge Manager

    • Submitted by Dan Inderieden on 10/02/2015 - 02:11 pm.

      Conflicting information

      From http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Minnesota_Valley/map.html. The Bloomington-Ferry Unit trail map clearly states bicycles under allowable uses of the trail. The Long-Meadow Lake Unit trail map also clearly lists bicycles as Allowable use (except for Bass Ponds and Hillside trails).

      And who said bikers are not interested in supporting Minnesota River Watershed conservation programs? Oh, only you.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/02/2015 - 12:13 pm.

    Wait wait wait…

    You[re telling me that the ACTUAL plan is to have two trails, or rather to add a paved tail while the existing trail stays more or less intact? And this fact does NOT appear anywhere in the body of the article but rather comes to light in the comments?

    I’m sorry but that’s sloppy writing. It doesn’t matter whether or not some people have their doubts, doubts don’t trump facts. The article should clearly state at the outset that an additional paved trail has been proposed, then we can talk about whether or not we have any “doubts”.

    The omission of the facts here sets up a false conflict between obliterating the existing trail or not. The fact that a third option is actually the current proposal is indispensable information, it mean supporters of the plan are actually NOT trying to ruin the trail in question. As it is the article states that supporters of the new trail are trying to destroy the existing trail, that’s simply false.

    • Submitted by William Lindeke on 10/02/2015 - 03:35 pm.

      Sure, kind of

      I admit to sometime sloppiness. The implication of the headline and the piece, which is stand by, is that the existing mountain bike trail will not be the same after the construction of the new “dual trail” (whatever that means, which is still unclear). The experience will be significantly changed, whether thanks to engineering, tree removal, or simply the expansion of access. There aren’t a lot of details as yet about what the new dual trail will look like, and as you can see from this comment thread, there’s a lot of conflicting information.

      But yes, I could have done a better job laying out the facts, and for that I apologize.

      • Submitted by Steve Elkins on 10/02/2015 - 10:44 pm.

        Sloppy?

        The headline was patently false! No one is talking about paving the existing trail except the MORC crowd, who selfishly want the river bottoms all to themselves. If we want a broad base of support for preserving and enhancing the Wildlife Refuge then we have to make it accessible to a broad base of users of all ages and abilities. You shouldn’t have to own a bike with fat tires to enjoy the natural wonders of this special place.

        • Submitted by Stephen Boyd on 10/03/2015 - 10:17 am.

          Not so fat

          Well of course you don’t need fat tires. I see all sorts of biker on every type of bike you can imagine down there. I also see tons of families with children, walkers, dog walkers, hikers, birders, nature lovers and runners from teen to senior citizen. They chose this place because it is pure and natural and off the beaten path…something that is in very short supply.

        • Submitted by Dennis Porter on 10/03/2015 - 10:33 am.

          Actually the plan does pave over the existing trail because the paved trail will take the highest areas along the flood plain which is where the trail exists now. You are also using the same inaccurate argument that the mountain bikers want it all for themselves. It has been the people in the mountain bike community that have provided the access and countless hours of volunteer work for ALL trail users for so many years.

          If you read the comments what people are want is a natural area not another overly sanitized park or paved trail. Its the case of “lets build another new visitor center in a natural area” that takes out the majority of the natural area? Yes, people many appreciate nature more in this case because there won’t be much left to appreciate. The argument preserve by paving should be an action call to those that care about the environment as misguided thinking. Broad base of citizens are the petition numbers, DNR surveys, Bloomington’s surveys, Open Houses, and other public outreach in which the majority of citizens say to keep it natural! Who is missing the point here? The Met Council?

          The supporters of the natural trail are not against infrastructure like bridges, signage, etc. The best plans could have access locations for people with special needs with a natural well managed trail. If we embrace this area for what it is an improve on its draw and popularity it could be a win for all and also be more responsible for our tax dollars.

        • Submitted by Dan Inderieden on 10/03/2015 - 10:59 am.

          Surprised and Disappointed

          Is this the Steve Elkins that was a Bloomington City Council member? If so, I’m surprised and extremely disappointed at such a knee-jerk response directed at cyclists!

          As has already been mentioned in previous comments, there has been specific discussion of a paved trail, including the language pushed forward by Rep. Lenczewski in the state house proceedings.

          And nowhere has MORC or other cyclists claimed that this trail is exclusively for mountain bikers. It is understood as always to be a multi-use trail, and noone is talking about changing that.

          You can make the area more accessible to a broader base of users by making improvements without creating a paved trail. Yes, enjoy the natural wonders of this special place, indeed!

        • Submitted by Brian Wolfe on 10/03/2015 - 06:04 pm.

          Wrong

          I don’t own a bike with fat tires, yet I use the river bottom trails almost every day of the week, even in the winter. There are plenty of people like myself, who run, walk, hike etc… that do not bike down there. While it has been said that the plan can include maintaining a natural trail I don’t trust this at all. No actual plans have been published for what the trail will look like. The current trail is almost entirely maintained by MORC yet we are expected to believe the DNR is suddenly going to maintain multiple trails down there? In fact, in the last year old board walks were ripped out and new ones put in, and a portion of trail was barricaded to force people to use the ‘new’ trail section. Does that sound like there is any interest in maintaining multiple trails?

          The only people being selfish in this scenario are those who want to bulldoze miles of forest to slap some pavement on the ground for people to ride their bikes on a few times a year, forcing those of us who actually use this trail on a daily and weekly basis to leave and find some other place with natural dirt trails.

          Do you honestly think destroying miles of forest is somehow ‘preserving and enhancing’? If that is you definition of preservation you are off your rocker.

          Want to make it accessible? Put in some 1-2 mile interpretive trails at each trailhead as well as bathrooms/water, put up more signage, improve the parking lots as needed etc… and actually maintain the existing trail, maybe widen certain parts to improve safety. But paving the entire river bottoms is not a plan that has any basis in logic or reason.

  14. Submitted by Dennis Porter on 10/02/2015 - 02:47 pm.

    There goes Ed Again

    To reply to Ed’s comments.

    The former caretaker of the Ikes property did give permission to cross the land and actually helped reroute the trail to be in a better location. This caretaker is willing to go on record stating this as well.

    A paved trail in the refuge is also not compatible with the refuge law that is why the DNR will get an easement for the trail of any surface type.

    The logic of cutting down tens of thousands of trees and the adding bituminous pavement (which is a pollutant) next to a already threatened major body of water to save it is not sound. This is the kind of thinking that is developing natural areas instead of keeping them natural and managing them. What will be left for future generations? The hypocrisy of the environmental organizations supporting bulldozing and paving nature is very sad.

    Anyone can read the petition comments and see who has signed and why. Most of the petition signers are people that have used the trail and know how wonderful it is now. It’s an unprofessional tactic to attack them for wanting to preserve a natural area.

    As has been mentioned there is talk of two trails but there in no firm documentation or legislation that includes two trails. We have been told there is supporting documentation but what we have been given was not sufficient to prove this statement. At this point Rep Lenczewski’s last minute provision put in during the end of the session says paved trail nothing else.

    It should also be noted that to date there has been no official user study. To say more may use the area if paved is speculation. Again, read the comments on the petition. Many say there are enough paved trails.

    The bottom line is that the DNR has yet to release its full plan and answer the biggest questions which is cost, maintenance, and sustainability. This plan should be fully reviewed by our lawmakers to answer all these questions before it moves forward. This should include House and Senate hearings so the public can speak as well. Any plan that clearly has this much opposition, questionable sustainability, and fiscal responsibility with Minnesota tax dollars should be fully reviewed before moving forward.

  15. Submitted by Brian Wolfe on 10/02/2015 - 03:29 pm.

    Who is the target demographic?

    I have been following this issue for quite awhile now and I have yet to understand clearly who the target demographic of the paved trail is. We are talking, what, 12+ miles (one way) of paved trail? Who is going to go down there and push a stroller that far? Sure you might open it up to casual bikers who are too intimidated by riding off road, but is that it? Who else is going to use it? Contrast that with the people who currently use it that will lose out on using it at all.

    As a trail runner who uses the trail on daily basis this will force me to run somewhere else. Because I don’t wish to run on paved paths or roads I will no longer be able to use this trail once it is paved. I talk to people down there all the time that don’t understand why anyone would want to pave this trail, we will all have to go somewhere else. For who? An increase in casual bikers? While runners, hikers, birders and cyclists all lose out? How many people are going to flock to an out and back 12+ mile trail? You really think thousands of people are going to go take a walk that requires an entire day? This effort is one of the most misguided things I have witnessed since I have been a Bloomington resident. Why destroy this beautiful location just to make a few politicians and some casual bikers happy?

  16. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/02/2015 - 05:51 pm.

    Kind of funny

    At least two commenters have tried to frame this issue as a “Marketing” strategy of some kind. What’s up with that?

    As for the paved trail and what not. If they do preserve both trails, and establish both of them within a clearly legal easement, the project will only enhance our recreational and maybe even transit options in the metro area.

    Sure, it may be a gamble but frankly I remember the exact same arguments being leveled against almost all of our bike trails (with the exception of the flooding potential). We built them anyways and things have worked out pretty well.

  17. Submitted by Stephen Boyd on 10/02/2015 - 08:05 pm.

    EdI have some number for

    Ed

    I have some number for you.

    When I downloaded the .csv of the petition signatures today the petition was at 3627 signatures.

    2968 of the signatures are from people listing their state as Minnesota. This equates to 81.83% of the signatures being from Minnesota.

    To make a comparison that should be meaningful to you….and and anyone with basic math skills….that’s a ratio as follows:

    1484:1

    2968 Minnesotans driving the opposition to this paved trail plan.

    2 Minnesotans for….You and Representative Lenczewski.

    Those are the REAL numbers.

    If your legacy and this plan to spend millions and millions of taxpayer dollars at the expense of thousands of trees and the destruction of a pristine area to pave a trail in a flood plain are so important to you that you insist in continuing pushing this boondoggle down the throats of Minnesotans….then keep pushing your one-sided agenda. Understand that doing so means you are playing the broken system in defiance of the will of the people and our founding fathers continue to roll in their graves.

    Steve Boyd

  18. Submitted by Joe Kendrick on 10/02/2015 - 11:18 pm.

    Pork, what a misused, politically tendentious word. Pork too often is used for anything government spends on that you don’t like. In any society run by elected government, that government will spend money in a manner disapproved by at least some of the electorate. That’s democracy. Now unless you’re from the tea party, you’ll acknowledge that this is how things are in elected government. We tolerate what government does — and sometimes hold our noses — while trying to shape spending into something we more approve of. Another word for this is being adult.

    And when I hear people criticizing spending money (pork?) on bike trails, I hope these critics are aware of all the fantastically expensive projects that have gone to support the automobile. By contrast, biking and pedestrian expenditure is barely pocket change.

    • Submitted by Dan Inderieden on 10/03/2015 - 10:51 am.

      Sure smell like it

      Pork barrel spending is the unnecessary expenditures which further a politician’s interest. The key word is unnecessary.

      I think you’re missing the point on bike trails. In fact a large voice against a paved trail is cyclists here, who would wholeheartedly agree that many bike trails are a very worthwhile expenditure. The point is that it is not needed in the Minnesota River bottoms. This multi-use trail is doing good things as is. Again, the objection is not over making other improvements. It just shouldn’t be a paved trail.

  19. Submitted by Ed Crozier on 10/03/2015 - 10:49 am.

    MN Valley Trails

    No one is going to change his or her perceptions about the MN Valley trails because of this online discussion, but I can’t resist commenting again.

    It is ironic that the environmentalist/conservationists supporting the plan for a two-track trail system in the valley are being chastised when they are some of the same people that worked for years to see that the wildlife refuge was created and the City’s valley lands were protected. It is because of their efforts that the mountain bikers now have an area for their existing informal dirt trail. The Bloomington side of the river could have become like the industrialized Savage side of the river where there is no room for wildlife, mountain bike trails or any other type of outdoor recreation.

    But it should also be pointed out that Bloomington’s river valley is not the BWCA. Since white settlement there has been over 100 years of man’s near total manipulation. As a result, the valley trail will not go through a virgin, untouched wilderness. In fact, nearly all of the land that the trail is now located on is former city streets, old farm roads or former agriculture fields. The additional surfaced trail will go through only a small portion of so-called native habitat and that is already penetrated by people using the existing mountain bike trail. The implication that the new two-track trail corridor (dirt & surfaced) will destroy untouched natural areas is false.

    The mountain bikers advocate for opposing things. They don’t want a separate surfaced trail that they probably won’t even see much of the time, but they do want the stream crossings that will come with the two-track trail system. Evidently, sharing that those with the surfaced trail users is also objectionable.

    • Submitted by Stephen Boyd on 10/03/2015 - 05:15 pm.

      Changing Perceptions

      Ed

      We know we won’t change YOUR perception.

      A public conversation in front of God and everyone means a fair opportunity for al to understand the situation. It help avoid the backroom deals and 11th hour amendments to bills that have already been a reality in this discussion. I’ll repeat from a previous comment…..playing the broken system.

      In the meeting we had with the DNR they explicitly stated they wanted both trails to go through the same typical 50-100′ corridor. You know as well as I do that there are places down there where the appropriate place for a trail exists ONLY in a space less than that. Pretty hard to miss the paved trail when it’s on top of where the natural trail used to be.

      We are advocating for preservation. In the process we hope to save the taxpayers and the state millions of dollars in unnecessary spending on a trail that only a few want and that shouldn’t be built in a flood zone.

      I note with interest and posted to the Save the River Bottoms Facebook page about the DNR moving the camp grounds at White Water state park OUT OF THE FLOOD ZONE due to repeated damage and the need to actually rescue people during flood events. Why does it make sense to move the infrastructure out of that flood zone yet build infrastructure in one in Blooming. Simple answer…it doesn’t.

    • Submitted by Brian Wolfe on 10/04/2015 - 09:35 am.

      You are missing the point

      I don’t think anyone in this discussion is dumb enough to think that the river bottoms are pristine untouched land that has not been influenced by man in the past. I think the point is that while sure it is not wilderness like that of the BWCA it is as close you can get to that feeling of being in the true wilderness in this area. There are few other places I think can of that are reminiscent of that feeling. That is what people are trying to protect. No one is confused, I don’t think they need enlightening from you on this.

      While it is noble of those who have worked in the past to preserve this area, and I for one do appreciate, I must say that if those same people feel that cutting a 100′ swath through the river bottoms is going to do anything to enhance the area that they have lost their way. It is outdated thinking. People want natural trails these days, these kinds of places are becoming more and more popular. There are a number of ways to enhance the area and make it more accessible that do not include paving the entire river bottoms.

  20. Submitted by Pat Berg on 10/04/2015 - 09:37 am.

    How about permeable pavings?

    Would that mitigate the flooding damage at all?

    • Submitted by Stephen Boyd on 10/05/2015 - 04:32 pm.

      But what about the trees?

      It might reduce the amount of damage due to a flood but won’t do a heck of a lot for the likely thousands of trees that will be destroyed in the process of building the paved trail.

  21. Submitted by Ed Crozier on 10/05/2015 - 08:10 am.

    Another reason for State Trail

    Agreed, the valley is exceptional because when visiting it there is a feeling of wilderness yet it is in a major metropolitan area with access to it only a 1/2 mile from the Mall of America and the location of several light rail stations. This is unique in the nation and why the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge has been designated by the leaders of the National Wildlife Refuge System as an “Urban National Wildlife Refuge” with a goal of making it more available/accessible to diverse urban populations. The reasoning is that this growing population of people will be the future decision makers and it will be good for the future of the nation’s natural environment if they have a comfort, an understanding and an appreciation for wild areas and value them. With that as a long-term goal, a little sharing of the valley does not seem like much of a sacrifice.

    While not the original or primary intent, the state trail corridor, with both a natural surface trail and a hard surface trail, will improve access for these people who are likely to have less ease & ability with the “wild” then say – mountain bikers. And with a minor disturbance to the natural character of the entire area and in many parts of the valley – little noticed by existing users.

    The 100 ft. corridor is the DNR desired width of its legal easement and not the width of any compete swath of vegetation clearing which would be unacceptable.

    The State Trail, with the natural surface track and a hard-surface track, will also meet the requirements of the American Disabilities Act (ADA), which a natural surface trail by itself does not.

    Granted there will be flooding just as there is just about everywhere these days, including mountain bike trails elsewhere in the state.

    • Submitted by Dan Inderieden on 10/05/2015 - 11:12 am.

      Another smear against current trail users

      Where do you get that the natural character of the entire area is “little noticed by existing users”? Please be clear that this is only your opinion.

      As far as other mountain bike trails, this is one of very few actually existing in a major flood plain. Yes, other mountain bike trails are subject to erosion due to rains and flow of water, and there are standards for building sustainable trails that are well defined by IMBA. And MORC has been quite responsible in maintaining trails as well as educating riders on good trail care, including refraining from riding on trails that are wet. You seem stuck in some old notion that mountain bikers run roughshod on trials. Those days are long gone.

      As far as the American Disabilities Act and access, etc, there is plenty of opportunity to provide access to those that are disabled without paving the entire trail. How about paving some of the trails in the Wildlife Refuge that currently off limits to bikes? How about paving over other sections in the river valley for such access, i.e. Pike Island in Ft. Snelling State Park? Gee, let’s pave it all! Do those with disabilities really want to follow the entirety of 15 miles of trails going from the Cedar Ave Bridge to the Bloomington Ferry crossing?

      Face it, this State Trail is not about the ADA or appreciating nature, rather it’s about creating a trail for very able bodied users and attracting more business and revenue ala the Cannon River Valley trail or the Paul Bunyan Trail or the John Munger Trail. It’s not worth it here, as it will effectively destroy a trail that is already wonderful.

    • Submitted by Dennis Porter on 10/05/2015 - 02:50 pm.

      An Urban National Wildlife Refuge is a great idea. This also why this area should remain as natural as possible. More paved trails in this area will only make it look like everything else in the metro. By keeping it natural that will enlighten the public to protect our natural spaces and not want more development and pavement in those areas. Otherwise the mindset of developing natural areas will continue.

      A paved trail will not be a minor disturbance to the natural character this is a road through a forest. Plain and simple.

      Again, there are natural trails that are ADA compliant. Some areas can be done for those special requirements including some that already exist. The bigger question is could the millions of dollars used to build this trail and the much more costly millions required to maintain it go to more sustainable projects in need now? Based on so much feedback against this projects how about this money goes to maintaining the trails that exist, fighting invasive species, purchasing land for conservation, and on and on.

      Downplaying the flood issue is not doing right by our tax dollars. There are too many examples like the lower trail in Shakopee, Black Dog Road, Bloomington Ferry Road, and etc where the flood plain proves pavement is expensive and fiscally irresponsible.

      • Submitted by Dennis Porter on 10/06/2015 - 10:34 am.

        Speaking of the DNR budget priorities they are cutting $475,000 dollars from the budget to fight invasive species. The new budget is $200,000 for this important issue. Again, is it fiscally responsible to spend millions of dollars trying to put a paved trail in a flood plain that has flooded nine times in the recent ten years or should the dollars go to things that need the money now?

  22. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/06/2015 - 10:19 am.

    Well…

    It’s nice to see that people are now actually discussing the actually two trail plan instead of a non-existent plan to replace the existing trail with a paved one, but…

    As an observer, I’ll make a couple comments. First, regardless who maintains the existing bike trail the fact remains that it was built on land the cyclists themselves do not own, and they aren’t actually entitled to have that trail. They may have some permissions but permission can be withdrawn. The existing trail is not ADA compliant. The cyclists who built and maintain the current trail are not entitled to dictate how the land down there is used or by whom it is used. Finally, one could point out that mountain biking and bike trails, regardless who builds them, are not exactly super eco-friendly amenities in a natural setting to begin with.

    Keeping this in mind what I see in these comments is an attempt supported by various arguments to preserve the existing trail more or less as is. The problem is that the cyclists making this argument tend to come across with a sense of undeserved entitlement. As an outside observer what I see is the land owners (represented more or less by Mr. Crozier) trying to accommodate cyclist and work with them. I may be mistaken but the IWL probably is not legally obligated or required to allow for the existence of the current bike trail, they could probably withdraw permission all together and make the deal for a paved path and only a paved path.

    So we have one group trying to open up the experience to a broader spectrum of visitors, and another group pushing back against that.

    Anti pavement cyclists might want to bear in mind the fact that while adding another paved trail in some proximity to the existing trail will undoubtedly change the experience of riding on the “natural” trail, it’s “the” experience, not “their” experience that the community at large is rightly concerned with. Opening up that experience to more people is a legitimate interest, even if it adversely affects “your” current experience.

    We see claims that although the current “natural” trail isn’t ADA compliant, it could be… So who’s going to make it ADA compliant then? And why isn’t it ADA compliant already? Beware that responses to this question can promote perceptions that current cyclists simply don’t want to see people in wheel chairs (or others) down in there because it will ruin their “experience”.

    The argument that the existing trail is unique and should be preserved as such has some merit, but its an argument, and it may or may not be convincing enough to change minds or form perceptions. Clearly two trails will have more of an impact on the environment than one, but if the landowners are “OK” with that it’s doable.

    I wonder if the objective of fighting the pavement might be better achieved by trying to open up the existing trail to more users so people can decide whether not it’s experience that should be preserved more or less as is?

    • Submitted by Dan Inderieden on 10/06/2015 - 11:51 am.

      Paved trail not equal to broader user base

      The fatal flaw in your argument is that a paved trail does NOT equate to a broader user base. Again, the idea and attitude expressed by current trail users has suggested over and over that other improvements short of paving the trail could help attract a broader user base.

      This isn’t an argument about allowing/disallowing any user base. The current trail is already multi-use, and used as such. Noone, including cyclists, are standing in the way of others using the trail. In fact, they are helping multiple types of trail users through the trail maintenance work that they’ve been doing.

      Also, the point keeps being made that some due diligence should be done to verify that proposed changes are actually wanted or worthwhile. The idea of a paved trail or 2-trail corridor being built is a positive thing is just a theory, with NO data showing that this costly proposal is in fact supported. Rather, the data so far shows the opposite.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/06/2015 - 03:24 pm.

        Wrong

        “This isn’t an argument about allowing/disallowing any user base. The current trail is already multi-use, and used as such. Noone, including cyclists, are standing in the way of others using the trail.”

        That’s exactly what this is about. The current trail does IN FACT limit the number of people that can use it. The trail has limited access.

        Now, whether or not a different kind of trail in addition to the existing trail will increase usage may be debatable, I think we can say usage would increase we just may not know how much. As for data, an online petition may reflect a certain groups opinion, but it’s not data. The fact that elected officials are considering in theory could indicate that they have support from their constituents. What kind of data do you suggest?

  23. Submitted by Dennis Porter on 10/06/2015 - 12:30 pm.

    The big issue remains. A paved trail in a flood plain that will be based on so many examples very, very expensive and questionably sustainable.

    I would argue the entitlement is coming from the people that are forcing the issue of paving the trail. Again, look at all the public outreach that includes the DNR’s own survey. It’s not a plan that the majority wants.

    As for the two trail claim. That is only talk. The paved trail is and has been the only real focus for the project. When funding has been discussed there is no funding for the so called natural trail. There is no legislation or real documentation proving this claim of two trails. Also, since the last session Rep Lenczewski has made sure this will be one paved trail. Unless the legislation is changed it will be one paved trail. Note (b).

    Minnesota Statutes 2014, section 85.015, subdivision 6, is amended to read:
    Subd. 6.

    Minnesota Valley Trail, Hennepin, Dakota, Scott, Carver, Sibley and Le Sueur Counties.

    (a) The trail shall originate at Fort Snelling State Park and thence extend generally southwesterly along the Minnesota River Valley through Hennepin, Dakota, Scott, Carver, Sibley, and Le Sueur Counties to the city of Le Sueur, and there terminate. The trail shall include the following state waysides: (a) Rice Lake Wayside, in Scott County; (b) Carver Rapids Wayside, in Scott County; (c) Lawrence wayside, in Scott county; (d) Belle Plaine Wayside, in Carver, Scott, and Sibley Counties; (e) Blakeley Wayside, in Scott County; and (f) Rush River Wayside, in Sibley County.
    (b) The trail shall be developed primarily for riding and hiking. Motorized vehicles are prohibited from that portion of the trail on the north side of the Minnesota River, lying between Fort Snelling State Park and Rice Lake Wayside. That portion of the trail on the north side of the Minnesota River, lying between the Bloomington Ferry Bridge pedestrian crossing and the Cedar Avenue Bridge, must be a paved trail developed primarily for hiking and bicycling.
    (c) In establishing, developing, maintaining, and operating the trail the commissioner shall cooperate with local units of government and private individuals and groups whenever feasible.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/06/2015 - 03:32 pm.

      Just talk?

      “As for the two trail claim. That is only talk.”

      Well, the theory that the existing trail will be obliterated and replaced by the paved trail is also “just talk”, and it’s contrary to the plan.

      I’m looking at the statute and it does describe the trail that the state is going to build, but that doesn’t mean the existing trail will replaced. The existing trail has been built and maintained by volunteers, and they seem to be perfectly happy with that, why would the state budget any money for the existing trail or even discuss the existing trail?

  24. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/06/2015 - 03:45 pm.

    On the other hand

    I can think of a lot of popular trails like the ones below the Minnehaha Falls, and the river dog park etc. that are not paved and seem to work just fine. A lot of the trails up on the North Shore in the State Parks aren’t paved and aren’t ADA compliant, and here in St. Louis Park we have a nature center with 2 or 3 miles of unpaved trail. I can’t see I see a compelling reason to have a paved trail down there so obviously some of these comments are valid. My wife and I hiked up Mount Rainier a couple years ago and the paved trail only goes so far while in most other areas of the park nothing is paved. I agree that flooding and paved trails don’t seem to go together. Sheesh have you seen the North Cedar Lake Bike Trail over by the stadium? That sucker split in half and dropped two feet, looks the San Andreas Falt down there, and THAT’S in the middle of the city.

    Maybe the real issue is some design features of the existing trail. Let’s say for instance we set aside the idea of paving anything and focus on increasing access, well is it a good idea to have cyclists and pedestrians AND people in wheel chairs etc. all using the same trail? And what changes would or should be make to that trail to make work well?

  25. Submitted by Jonny Plame on 11/27/2015 - 09:46 pm.

    The only argument MORC has

    Is money. They keep claiming there is no money. I think realistically they won’t show future budgets for the maintenance of this trail until it is created.

    As for wanting this all for themselves its true. This is basically their mud trail. Many road it yesterday including dirt bosses of other trails… They just want something unpaved in order to keep other riders out of their other trails when we get small amounts of precip. Check out their website. 90% of the trails are closed or muddy but they do a large group ride at the river bottoms. The ring leader in this whole thing…. Steve Boyd closes the trail he is a boss of and then rides the river bottoms…lame and hypocritical to so the least.

    • Submitted by Sean Epp on 12/04/2015 - 03:15 pm.

      What?

      JP – not sure where you are getting this from. It’s not the absence of funding, it’s the waste thereof – among several other things far more important than the money itself – that most folks object to.

      It is not about wanting anything all to ones self. Cyclists don’t have exclusive access to or use of this trail. Never have, never will. It is not their goal or end game. They may appreciate it and use it more but it’s not their private playground although they do contribute disproportionately to its maintenance which other user groups directly benefit from year in and year out.

      Also, let’s not forget that for an extended period during the summer that unless you’re actually running (fast) or cycling, the area can be absolutely dreadful for other users because of mosquitoes and flies. The 9 Mile crossing alone can prove very annoying even for cyclists at these times.

      FWIW, riding muddy trails generally isn’t a fun experience for most riders and can actually ruin your equipment. You are correct though that the River Bottoms can be used when other trails are closed because of its inherent nature. Wish as they might, nobody controls mother nature and the river bottoms are constantly changing season after season. Few sections outside of the elevated parts near the east end towards Indian Mounds school are spared this fate.

      The pro-paving camp seems like little more than politicians chasing something to put on their CV as an “accomplishment” with a blind eye towards actually realizing positive impacts from the effort. They have so much personal energy invested in this fools’ errand thus far that they’re extremely reluctant to let it go at this point.

      Leave the River Bottoms Trail as-is. Let’s add some user amenities at the Lyndale and Ferry Bridge lots and build a (minimalistic) permanent pedestrian bridge over 9 Mile that is more user friendly to the less adventurous (like me). Put the rest of the money being earmarked for this project into a sinking fund for future maintenance and improvements – don’t waste it to cut down trees and put blacktop over silt and sand in a floodplain.

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