Thursday's city Trail Committee meeting at Valley Technology Park provided a lot of insight on the possibilities for an expanded trail system in Crookston.
Pat Kelly, Public Works director/interim city administrator, led the way by showing the attendees a current trail map and asking what everyone's preferred areas for more trails would be. The majority said their top choice would be the Castle Park area. A couple others agreed on the need for more trails on the south end of town, specifically, along Fairfax Avenue. Ward 5 Council Member Dale Stainbrook, who represents that area on the city council, has long agreed Fairfax is sorely lacking when it comes to trails, but the city has for years run into roadblocks on land issues related to the railroad.
Some even had a dream area like Craig Hoiseth, executive director of the Crookston Housing and Economic Development Authority (CHEDA), who wanted "a tie-in between McDonald's and the Minakwa Golf Course all the way to Castle Park." Kelly mentioned that the Fairfax section is "shovel ready" and they hope to have funding for at least one of the places set up for this spring.
Previewing Thursday's meeting at this week's Park Board meeting, Parks & Recreation Director Scott Riopelle suggested the possibility of a 6,200 foot trail running on the wet side of the new levee from Oak Court to Castle Park. There are private property and easement issues to be hammered out, he stressed, and funding is obviously an issue, too. Also, the slope of the wet side of the levee could not be altered at at, either, Riopelle said, in any way that would compromise the integrity of the structure.
Riopelle and others agree that any trail that involves Castle Park, which officials are trying to make the community's signature park, would only enhance the city's effort to land a major state Legacy grant that would move the city's official campground from Central Park to Castle Park and add other amenities to the park that currently includes the dog park, nature play space and trails in the woods.
Stainbrook suggested that "the first conversation needs to be with the Department of Natural Resources to see what grants they recommend and if there is any leftover money from other grants." The DNR has federal trail funds under the "Regional Trail Grant Program" that can provide up to 50 percent of the cost for trails.
Trail Committee member Dale Knotek, an avid cross country skier, said he wants to see trails all around the city, especially for skiing. Knotek thinks that the Castle Park, Aunt Pauly's Slough and UMC Natural History areas would be great places since the loss of the Mount St. Benedict ski trails, due to the construction of a new residence for the sisters. Knotek would also like to see someone who could help with signage for any trails that might be constructed. Kelly thought these were great ideas and suggested that Knotek start a cross country skiing association for Crookston. "There are a lot of people here that would love to join," Kelly said.
Page 2 of 2 - Kelly has asked for the group's help in coming up with something solid, as well as assistance in grant funding requests. The Trail Committee will reconvene the first week of October to see what they have come up with.
Managing Editor Mike Christopherson contributed to this story.