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Regional trail open house is Thursday

A proposed trail from Spring Lake Park to Hastings, which has been in the discussion stage for almost 10 years, is one step closer to reality.

Interested people can review the preliminary engineering details at a public open house from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, May 7, at the Schaar's Bluff Gathering Center, 8395 E. 127th St.

Following the public review, engineering of the trail will continue. The trail's route was approved by the Dakota County Board last October.

The trail will connect Hastings to Spring Lake Park Reserve. From Hastings the trail will follow the south side of Highway 42 to Riverdale Drive, then cross Highway 42 and continue along the north side of Highway 42 to County Road 87. The route then follows the south side of County Road 87 into Spring Lake Park.

This trail 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 County Board asked staff to also complete a feasibility study along a portion of 140th Street.

In October, 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 land.

Not all Nininger residents are happy about the trail option. The residents included David and Maureen Fasbender, Sharon and Terry Avent, and Harrison Benjamin. They hired Hastings attorney Harvey Jones to speak on their behalf.

He said some of the residents are concerned about the recommended alignments because of safety concerns at the intersection with County Road 42 (at the south end). Jones said there is a steep hill approaching the intersection.

One of the property owners - Fasbender - will be significantly affected because some of his property is in the Green Acres program (the property is in a different tax category because of its use/nonuse).

"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."

Others, though, support the option. One is Ann Baldwin, who has lived along County Road 87 for about 40 years.

"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."

Currently, there is no public access to Spring Lake Park except by County Road 42, Baldwin said. 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 all right 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.

The total cost of the project is about $1.2 million. About 80 percent of the funds are coming from a federal transportation enhancement grant intended to provide trails for nonmotorized transportation and recreation. About 20 percent is funded locally by Dakota County through an interminably levy, which supports trail development.

Other trail sections west of Spring Lake Park are expected to be designed, funded and built in future years.