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Nininger Township trail to Spring Lake Park moves ahead

Construction of the Mississippi River Regional Trail alignment along Dakota County Road 87 from Spring Lake Park in Nininger Township to Hastings will not begin until next year, but Dakota County officials have begun the official steps to acquire property for the needed right-of-way for the 3.4 miles of trail. The delay in the start of the project is due to a slow pace in acquiring the properties.

At its regular meeting this week, the Dakota County Board of Commissioners approved the acquisition and authorization of "quick take" condemnation of needed right of way should that become necessary.

The acquisition action will involve 21 parcels of property owned or held in trust by 14 families. The total appraised value of the right of way is $201,950.

A federal transportation grant requires acquisition of all parcels by March 31, 2010.

It has been almost a year since the commissioners recommended the trail alignment be primarily along County Road 87, connecting with County Road 42 inside the Hastings city limits.

This option was considered the preferred option of the Nininger Town Board, which in July 2008 asked Dakota County to complete a feasibility study along the county road. This was after almost nine years of study and after the county first recommended County Road 42 for the trail alignment. The commissioners also asked staff to complete a feasibility study along a portion of 140th Street.

County staff recommended the County Road 87 alignment, citing the lower speed and volume of vehicles on the road, as well as the option of utilizing the natural resources of the park and private lands to increase the recreational quality.

The chosen alignment has both supporters and non-supporters.

Gail Conzemius is one of more than 100 Nininger residents who signed a petition in support of the recommended alignment (along County Road 87) and presented it to the Nininger Township Board of Supervisors this summer.

"We believe this route (County Road 87) is user-friendly," Conzemius said. "We are very supportive of it."

Ann Baldwin has lived along County Road 87 for about 40 years and loves the area, and the idea of a trail along the road.

"We've so many families out here on 87, and the kids don't have anywhere to walk or bike," she said. "The road is so narrow - there is no comparison to 42."

Safety concerns have been expressed about the steep incline along a portion of that road.

The trail (C.R. 87) would go over Baldwin's property and that is alright with her. That will bring the runners, the walkers and the bikers closer, and safer, she said. "It will be nice to have it here where we can use it," she said.

Others are not as accepting.

Some of the residents are concerned about the recommended alignment because of safety concerns at the intersection with County Road 42 (at the south end), according to Hastings attorney Harvey Jones. He represents some of the families, including Sharon Avent and Harrison Benjamin, who spoke to the commissioners last year. Jones said there is a steep hill approaching the intersection.

"A total of 26 property owners will be affected as opposed to 13 on County Road 42," Jones said. "For some, the trail will be directly in front of them."

The Nininger portion of the trail is expected to cost $1.2 million, with a federal transportation grant of $696,000 covering part of it and a local county match of about $511,000 covering the remaining cost.