boy biycling along trail
March 4, 2020

Partnerships and advocacy for the Mill Towns State Trail

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 theĀ  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.

Group wearing Friends of Mill Towns shirts with Rep. Bly

Friends of Mill Towns Trail meet with Rep. Bly (DFL, Northfield)

In 2020, they are advocating for funding to rehabilitate a section of trail between Northfield and Dundas. (See page 23 of our trail conditions report for details.)

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.

Get involved

If you’d like to get involved with Friends of the Mill Towns State Trail, you can mail a note with your email address to PO Box 282, Northfield, MN 55057. Then, you’ll receive their email updates, which come out about every two months. Additionally, you will be invited to join the bimonthly friends group meeting to learn more about the group and the projects taking place.

Ten people dig their shovels into a pile of dirt for the ground breaking ceremony
Photo courtesy of Faribault Daily News
crane installing a trail bridge over a river
Photo by Brad Phenow
Bicyclists on new bridge
Peggy Prowe, a member of Friends of Mill Towns bikes on the trail bridge in Northfield named in her honor
a worker keeps an eye on the controlled burn
Photo by Scott Haugen

Content contributed by: Peggy Prowe, Friends of the Mill Towns State Trail

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About Ashley Pethan