The county made a money pitch recently to a senate bonding tour that stopped in Circle Pines – requesting a grant to complete a 1.7 mile chunk of unfinished trail on the popular Rice Creek North system.
“It’s essentially going to connect Lino Lakes with the Mississippi River and a contiguous trail alignment,” said Jeff Perry from Anoka County Parks.
The county wants an estimated $6.75 million from the Capital to finish the link in Circle Pines.
“We’re going to make sure this thing gets done this session,” said Elliott Engen (R), a Minnesota State Rep. representing District 36A.
But the last piece to this puzzle is a challenge because the trail goes through wetlands and requires a boardwalk.
Said Perry: “It’s probably the toughest missing link that we have to build for the entire 28 mile segment.”
Benefits outweigh costs
The county believes the benefits outweigh the cost. Finishing the missing link would give trail users many options.
“You could get on a bike at Lino Lakes city hall and bike or walk or jog all the way through Anoka County,” Perry said. “Through Ramsey County through the panhandle of Anoka County and to the Mississippi River…It draws well beyond Anoka County. It’s a regional draw as well as a state-wide draw.”
“It’s going to be a destination site for a lot of our communities whether it’s Circle Pines, Centerville, or Lino Lakes,” Engen said.
Engen believes the trail gap should be completed and that it benefits people from all backgrounds and political persuasions.
“It’s not red or blue,” Engen said. “This is something that everybody can enjoy. That’s why we’re going to be championing it all together. Both sides.”
Engen is confident that Anoka County will get the money to complete the trail.
“It’s a project that’s been in the works for a while now and it’s just time that we finish it up,” Engen said. “I was very glad to see that it is in the governor’s bonding request proposal. I think that we can get this done and it can be a bi-partisan bill that we all champion.”
“We are in the Governor’s budget at $6.75 million so that’s a positive indicator,” Perry said. “We will continue with our lobbying efforts throughout the session and hope for the best.”
Minnesota values trails
Minnesota residents put a high value on getting outside and having an au natural experience. The North Star state has a positive national reputation when it comes to parks and trails.
“There’s a huge demand for it,” Perry said. “We have six million visitors to the county parks system alone and in the region we have over 55 million visitors to the regional park and trail system so the demand is there. Trails are the lifeblood of Minnesotans and we stand poised and ready to build this project.”
“We value our roads and bridges but we also value our trails,” Engen said. “That’s something that we should be investing in.”
If Anoka County gets the grant money, construction would start in early 2025. The Rice Creek chain of lakes is the largest park reserve in the Twin Cities metro area.