Since the late 90s, Friends of the Mill Towns Trail has garnered support for the Mill Towns State Trail. A common thread throughout their history reveals strong partnerships as a key driver in the accomplishments so far.
Partnerships at work
First and foremost, the friends group works closely with the DNR to support mutual priorities. The DNR provides regular updates to the friends about project statuses and ongoing activities. The friends steps in to spearhead or support specific initiatives when it makes sense.
Another strong partnership is with the Rotary Club. Their financial support, through proceeds from the Jesse James Bike Tour, has enabled the friends group to help install trail kiosks, offer matching dollars for grants, and so much more over the years!
Additionally, as infrastructure projects come up, the friends group supports the work of townships, cities, and counties to capitalize on the opportunity to incorporate trail infrastructure. Here are some examples:
- In Northfield, incorporating a trail tunnel when they convert an intersection into a roundabout.
- Having a bridge reconstructed with a 10-foot right of way to accommodate the trail in the future.
- Restoring an iron bridge with a historical grant in Waterford Township.
Advocating for trail funding
One place the friends group is active in supporting the trail is at the capitol. Over the years, the friends have worked in partnership with the Faribault Flyers, a local bike group, to speak with legislators about the importance of the trail.
The friends group utilizes a number of strategies to advocate for bonding requests, such as:
- Arrange meetings with legislators adjacent to the trail route.
- Invite trail supporters to join these meetings and share their perspectives for why the trail is important.
- Encourage trail supporters to wear a friends t-shirt to identify the group and help enhance recognition.
- Talk about the importance of trails for the local economy and as public playgrounds for the community and visitors.