Wright County approves moving forward with national bike trail

By John Holler

Several years ago a bike trail was begun with the purpose of allowing riders to follow the Mississippi River as its makes its way south from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico. At the Aug. 14 meeting of the Wright County Board, the commissioners voted to authorize the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the county highway and parks departments to complete the Wright County portion of the nationwide trail.

Parks Administrator Marc Mattice said the Mississippi River Trail program has been years in the making and the item was first brought before the board in 2010 when it provided a letter of support to have the trail connected through Wright County. Mattice said the project has finally made its way up to Minnesota and Wright County will be involved.

“The 3,000-mile trail system will run from the headwaters of the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico,” Mattice said. “The route utilizes bicycle-friendly roads and multi-use pathways. The trail started in the early 1990s between New Orleans and St. Louis. MnDOT is focusing its efforts on the Minnesota route and will rely heavily on road shoulders, low-volume paved roads and separate pathways. Approximately 60 percent of the route in Minnesota will be established on local, township and county roads, 25 percent on state roads and the remaining on state, regional and local trails.”

The Mississippi River Trail will generally parallel the Great River Road and MnDOT will provide the signage and marketing of the trail. The trail in Wright County will run along CSAH 75 from the north county line in Clearwater to Monticello, along CSAH 39 from Monticello to Otsego and along CSAH 42 from Otsego to the county line at Dayton.

“It’s a program that has been a long time in the making and it continues to work its way north,” Mattice said. “We’re happy to be a part of this program and hope that it will get a lot of use by riders who want to travel the full length of the trail.”

In a related motion, the board authorized Mattice and Highway Engineer Virgil Hawkins to represent the county’s interests regarding the trail development and designation in Wright County.

In other items on the Aug. 14 agenda, the board:

SET a bid opening for a two-mile cleanup segment of Joint County Ditch 15 in Stockholm Township, which is shared by Wright, Meeker and McLeod counties. Four vendors have already expressed an interest and sealed bids are to be received until 4:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 27. Bids will be opened at the Aug. 28 county board meeting.

APPROVED hiring William Waytas of Nagell Appraisal and Consulting to represent the county in an ongoing dispute with a landowner, who is disputing the appraisal rates of the county for the last four years. The property, located along the fork of the Crow River is a massive private home that in 2008 was valued at $4 million — a valuation price that dropped to $2.2 million as the housing market has collapsed. The landowner is contending that the property is worth $1.9 million and is seeking a valuation of that figure for each of the last four years. Barring a settlement, the case is scheduled to go to trial Nov. 13.

ACCEPTED the minutes of the technology committee of the whole. The committee discussed the potential of streaming county board meetings on the county’s internet website. Two firms that do such work made proposals to the committee, offering both a live streaming and on-demand option. The board took no immediate action on the item, rather laying it over until the budget process is completed and cost figures are analyzed.

LAID over for one week bids received on the Montrose Safe Routes to School trail project. The county served as a sponsoring agent for the program because Montrose has a population of less than 5,000 and requires a county sponsorship to access federal grant dollars. The estimated cost for the project was $155,000, but the two bids received were $35,000 and $40,000 higher than the estimate. The item was laid over so city officials can discuss the bids and decide whether to accept the lowest bid or reject them both.

AUTHORIZED the county’s employee wellness committee to sponsor after-hours yoga and zumba classes for employees in the old county jail gymnasium. The yoga classes will be held Thursdays from 4:30 to 5 p.m. with a first session from Sept. 13 to Oct. 18 and a second session from Nov. 1 to Dec. 13. The zumba classes will run Tuesdays from 4:30 to 5 p.m. with a first session running from Sept. 18 to Oct. 23 and a second session from Nov. 6 to Dec. 18.