Anyone who has traveled on the Great River Ridge State Trail in southern Minnesota has likely wondered why the trail abruptly ends at a cornfield along County Road 9. Across the road, a rusty railroad track reveals the corridor’s original use, but no trains have traveled these rails for years. So why hasn’t it been converted into a trail?
Parks & Trails Council (P&TC) is working to make that trail extension a reality. In 2018, P&TC bought this abandoned corridor from Canadian Pacific Railroad. Then, in June 2022, P&TC officially transferred ownership to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MnDNR).
The acquisition of this 1.5-mile corridor allows the trail to extend south to U.S. Highway 14, near the city of Eoyta. Recently, this highway segment was made more pedestrian friendly with a roundabout and pedestrian crossings. Such improvements will benefit trail users crossing the two-lane highway into Eoyta.
Several other trail projects are underway in this area, which promise to eventually fulfill the goal of an interconnected trail system between Rochester and nearby smaller towns with parks.
One of these projects is happening at Chester Woods Regional Park, which is located about three miles west of the Great River Ridge State Trail’s planned terminus at Hwy 14.
Here, MnDNR construction crews have started building a scenic trail that will run southwest through the park until it (nearly) connects with a recently completed city trail in Rochester. Planners are working on a solution for the one-block-long gap. This trail may be done by the summer.
Trail connections often take years of dedication and happen in bits and pieces. But with multiple partners all working together through the many stages, these vital connections get done and create vibrant amenities that last for generations.