Friends of the Mill Towns State Trail has been a steadfast supporter and local advocate for the Mill Towns State Trail. From advocacy to financial contributions, the friends continue to work behind the scenes to move trail development forward throughout the trail corridor.
The group’s primary source of income comes from their partnership with the Northfield Rotary. Each year, the Rotary organizes a public bike event, and the profits from that event are donated to the Friends of the Mill Towns State Trail in order to advocate for and support the Mill Towns State Trail. The money from that partnership has allowed the group to make substantial financial investments in trail projects, providing matching funds and leveraging local investment in partnerships with county and state entities.
In practice, this is demonstrated in the Waterford Bridge project. The Waterford Township has undertaken a significant project to rehabilitate the Waterford bridge, which is listed on the national register of historic places. The four-phase project will result in a safe pedestrian and bike crossing of the Cannon River and will be used by the Mill Towns State Trail. During phase one, the township received a 340,000 grant from the Minnesota Historical Society for reconstruction of concrete abutments and other rehabilitation. As costs rose, the friends group contributed $30,000 as matching funds to encourage a $91,000 investment from Dakota County in addition to a $10,000 contribution from the township. Phase one has been completed and funding has been secured for phase 2. This restoration work is necessary for the long-term vision of the trail to be connected to the Dakota County Trail system, and the friends are involved every step of the way.
During this legislative session, the friends group is involved in supporting the $7.5 million bonding request from the City of Northfield to construct 6+ miles of trail through the city. The friends have been reaching out to get support from local legislators. Bills have been introduced in the house and senate, with the house bill receiving a hearing in the Capital Investments Committee. P&TC is working with the friends group to monitor and support efforts to move the bills towards inclusion in the final bonding bill.