For the past 40 years, the Brainerd School District has owned about 20 acres of undeveloped land in the Buffalo Hills area, land set aside as a potential elementary school site.
The city of Brainerd purchased the adjacent 20 acres, which includes Buffalo Hills Park, around the same time as the district bought its tract.
On Monday, school board members learned that the city of Brainerd is considering a Buffalo Hills Trail extension and improvement project if the city is able to receive a Legacy program grant to fund the project.
The trail would pick up from the current trail that ends at Kiwanis Park along the river to the Spur Line Trail, which currently ends across from Thompson Concrete.
City staff wanted to find out if the board supported such a concept so the city council could discuss the proposal and take action on the grant application Oct. 17. The grant deadline is Oct. 31.
Board members took no action Monday, but generally expressed indicated they were supportive of the project. Board member Kent Montgomery noted that in the future, if a new elementary school were to be constructed there, a paved trail would be an asset for students walking to school. The district has no current plans to build a school there.
However, district staff and board members were concerned that the trail, which is proposed to run on school district property along a current, undeveloped snowmobile trail, could take up to three to four acres of the district’s parcel. The Department of Education requires a minimum of 20 acres for new elementary school construction.
For most of the trail, it is proposed to be located on city or right of way property. But the city is proposing to place the trail outside of an existing utility easement onto school district property because a power line runs that north/south parallel to Graydon Avenue in residents’ backyards.
Board chair Jim Hunt said he went out and looked at the land Monday. He asked if the city would be willing to split its property in half and swap it with half of the district’s property so the trail could be constructed on city property. Then the district would continue to own 20 contiguous acres for a future school.
City planner Mark Ostgarden, who attended the board meeting with council member Lucy Nesheim, said the proposed trail would be a 10-foot-wide bituminous trail used year round, by walkers and bicyclists in the summer and cross-country skiers in the winter.
Ostgarden said construction of the trail could begin as early as 2012 if the city receives the grant.
Board member Chris Robinson asked if the council would consider moving the trail later on if the district does decide in the future to build a school there.
Ostgarden said he can’t speak for the council. He said the city has looked at every option so the trail wouldn’t be located in residents’ backyards. Still, about six homes north of Pineview Drive and Belle Rae Circle will have the trail in their backyard. Ostgarden said he spoke to three of the affected homeowners who either were supportive or didn’t object to the trail.
“I think we’re supportive of a bike trail as long as we still have 20 acres for future development,” said board member Ruth Nelson.
Robinson said this would allow the public to use the land entrusted to the district and provide them with recreational opportunities. He said it would be a good partnership with the city.
In other board business, board members congratulated BHS seniors Nick Greatens and Adam Warren for being named National Merit Semifinalists. Board members asked the teens questions, including if they had any advice for younger students to be successful in school.
“One thing my dad has always told me is eyes on the prize,” responded Warren. “There’s no doubt that high school is really distracting, but you’ve got to stay focused. It’s temporary and what you’re doing now is building you up for the rest of your life.”
“Listen to your teachers,” Greatens added. “I know they really do know something and they’re there to help us. You should really respect your teachers.”
Superintendent Steve Razidlo thanked community members for another successful community homecoming.
“From the coronation on Monday to the orchestral presentation on Sunday, we did a lot of things with community and we need to say thank you to community,” said Razidlo. “It was truly wonderful. I don’t know any other communities that do it this way. Thanks to those who thought it up and thanks to those who kept it going.”
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.