Minnesota State Capitol

2023 community-driven trail projects: an update

For a period of time this spring, it was an open question as to whether the Minnesota Legislature would pass a bonding bill. After some political maneuvering from both sides of the aisle, however, the 2023 bonding bill was signed into law by Governor Walz, releasing a flood of funding for multiple projects across the state, including five community-driven trail projects supported by Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota. In addition, the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) included recommendations for the funding of two more P&TC-supported projects near William O’Brien and Maplewood State Parks. These seven projects had been part of the 2022 bonding bill but were delayed when the end of that session came without consensus on the bill at the Legislature. 

 P&TC assisted these community-driven projects by publishing factsheets compiled with information provided by our Friends Group Partners, encouraging our partners to find bill authors in both houses of the Legislature, keeping them up to speed on important dates, and making their projects a part of our broader legislative agenda for 2023. 

In total, the 93rd Legislative Session funded the following community-driven, P&TC-supported parks and trails projects: 

  • Casey Jones State Trail: $1.32 million for the acquisition, design, engineering, and construction of new trail miles;  
  • Gitchi Gami State Trail: $4 million for the acquisition, design, engineering, and construction of four priority trail segments 
  • Glacial Lakes State Trail: $3 million for the design and construction of the final trail segment needed to connect the Glacial Lakes State Trail from New London, MN to Sibley State Park; 
  • Itasca-Heartland Trail: $2.4 million for connecting the trail to Itasca State Park; 
  • Mill Towns State Trail: $8.19 million for the acquisition, predesign, design, and construction of the Mill Towns State Trail between Riverside Park in Northfield and the Waterford Historic Bridge; 
  • Gateway State Trail: $2.869 million in LCCMR funding for 1 mile of trail and tunnel from Scandia towards William O’Brien State Park; and 
  • Glacial Edge Regional Trail: $2.514 million in LCCMR funding for construction of the Maplewood State Park segment of the Perham to Pelican Rapids Regional Trail. 

In addition to the projects listed above, P&TC also supported an effort to obtain funding for building a connection between the 29-mile Shooting Star State Trail and the 27-mile WAPSI-Great Western Line Trail in Iowa. Although this project was ultimately not included in the final bonding bill, our partners at the Friends of the Shooting Star State Trail nevertheless deserve credit for their hard work and perseverance at getting this project in front of legislators. We also engaged in various conversations with supporters of the Root River State Trail extension, the Detroit Lakes segment of the Heartland State Trail, and the extension of trail from the entrance of Glendalough State Park to Annie Battle Lake, all of which did ultimately receive funding this legislative session.

Thank you to the following groups who we partnered with to successfully advocate for these vital projects:  

  • Friends of the Casey Jones Trail 
  • Friends of Lake Shetek State Park 
  • Gateway Brown’s Creek Trail Association  
  • Friends of Scandia Parks and Trails 
  • Gitchi-Gami Trail Association 
  • Friends of Tettegouche State Park 
  • Sibley State Park Improvement Association  
  • Itasca-Heartland Connection Trail Task Force 
  • Friends of the Mill Towns State Trail 
  • Friends of Maplewood State Park 

Additionally, we’d like to thank the Department of Natural Resources and numerous cities, chambers of commerce, nonprofits, and other local institutions that threw their support behind these projects.   

These projects, taken together, represent new opportunities to fill in gaps in trail continuity, improve outdoor recreation facilities across the state, attract tourism revenue, and ensure safe access to and from travel destinations for bikers, pedestrians, and other regular users of our state trails system. Read more about these projects—and P&TC’s broader legislative agenda–at the link here.