City sees benefits in county plans for greenway
Dakota County's plans to incorporate an existing Hastings trail into its own trails would result in few dramatic changes to it, but would financially benefit the city.
The plan details a proposed 5-mile greenway through Hastings that would connect to other existing trails like the Mississippi River Trail. The plan is open for public comment until July 17.
The plan's greenway incorporates some of the existing city trails — from Levee Park to Pleasant Drive — into the county's greenway system and transfers control of them to the county. That means that the county would pay for trail maintenance, something the city has handled in the past, said Chris Jenkins, Hastings parks and recreation director.
"I haven't been able to drum up any negatives or cons for the [plan]," he said. "It really is a win-win."
There isn't a clear figure for the cost of maintaining the trails, and most of it is relatively new, but Jenkins said that over time there will be maintenance involved with the asphalt and other aspects of the trail.
Users of the trails would see few changes, but there are parts of it that include some changes. The plan includes mostly low-cost improvements such as: new trailheads at various parts, improved lighting and, most prominently, a roughly mile-long portion of the trail that would need to be completed from Pleasant Drive to Marshan Township, said John Mertens, a Dakota County planner.
Other work includes improving user amenities like trash receptacles and adding in county signage on the trail, he said. The lack of extensive work is unusual for most master plans, that might focus more on trail alignments and land acquisition, he said.
"What the plan does is position the corridor for investment from the region," Mertens said. "We're essentially taking what we think is a great city trail corridor and turning it into a regional asset."
The plan's timeline is unclear, and depends on how funding arises, Mertens said. Immediate work would begin on minor improvements, but constructing the new mile-long trail would be a long-term project.
After the public comment, the plan is up for approval from the county's board of commissioners and then to the Metropolitan Council, he said. Once approved there, that opens up regional funding for the trails improvements, and could kick start some of the work.
"This corridor is read to be regionalized now and we want to access the regional funding now," Mertens said.
The plan is part of Dakota County's hopes to create a connected greenway system throughout the county, said Mike Slavik, Dakota County commissioner for the Hastings and surrounding area.
The idea behind that is to create a system that can get people from "point A to point B" while also protecting natural resources, he said. That work has been more comprehensive than surrounding counties, he said.
"It's substantially more than our peers ... Dakota County, for the ring of suburban counties, have been ahead of its time," Slavik said.
The complete 71-page plan can be found here.