Brainerd will seek a DNR grant to extend the Spur Line Trail through south Brainerd to connect to Kiwanis Park.
The Brainerd City Council by a vote of 5-2 on Monday approved submitting a grant application for the trail, which is estimated to cost about $570,000. The proposal is for the trail to be paid for entirely with grants. The city has already received $150,000 for the trail.
Voting against was Council President Mary Koep and council member Bob Olson.
Though not a public hearing, numerous people spoke for and against the trail plan before the council’s vote. The council also received a petition from an association against the trail, and numerous letters of support from people, organizations and businesses.
John Forrest, a Pineview Drive resident and a trail supporter, said he was distressed when it appeared the trail proposal would be defeated last month. He said the letters of support show that the trail is important to people.
“Trail systems in the community are necessary for quality of life,” Forrest said. But the biggest issue, he said, was safety. Right now children have no sidewalks to walk on.
Margee Backstrom, a Spruce Drive resident, said people use her association’s private roads to walk on already and was concerned a trail could lead to more people using their roads. She asked that a retaining wall be put up.
John Pecarich, a Crestview Lane resident and trail supporter, said trails become the lifeblood of a community.
“Brainerd is one of few cities that doesn’t have a trail running through it,” Pecarich said. He also said a trail would increase a property’s value.
Like Forrest, safety was an issue for Pecarich. He said Buffalo Hills Lane is a dangerous street with no sidewalks except on about one block.
“This needs to be addressed and the trail would do that,” he said.
Joe McCurdy, general manager at Brainerd Hotel and Conference Center, supported the trail because it would attract visitors, especially with its direct access to the Mississippi River.
Cheryl Turcotte, a Belle Rae Circle resident, said the trail would enhance her life. Several other Belle Rae Circle residents also spoke in favor of the trail.
“This would be a great, great deal for south Brainerd,” said Rick Johnson, whose house would be about 200 feet from the trail. “I’m all for it.”
The support on Belle Rae Circle wasn’t unanimous, however. Brenda Dewitt, a Belle Rae Circle resident, was opposed to a trail being so close to her house, saying she didn’t want snowmobiles outside her bedroom window. Snowmobiles, however, would not be allowed on the trail, noted council member Dale Parks.
A sticking point for those in opposition to the trail was who would maintain it, such as picking up trash and snow removal.
City Planner Mark Ostgarden said as the city’s ordinance is written, property owners would be responsible for snow removal just as they are on sidewalks and other trails, such as on South Eighth Street, that run by houses. As for picking up trash, Ostgarden also said he hoped adjacent property owners would help, which got chuckles from trail opponents.
Koep said the question of who will maintain the trails was an important point. City Administrator Dan Vogt and City Engineer Jeff Hulsether said the trail down Buffalo Hills Lane would need to be clear of snow because it is a walkway, but the rest of the trail as it heads to the north would not.
The proposed trail would go west down Buffalo Hills Lane, north to the Mississippi River and into Kiwanis Park, where it would connect with the Cuyuna Lakes State Trail and the College Drive/Paul Bunyan Trail.
Ostgarden asked if it was the council’s understanding that if the grant is funded the trail would be built. Council member Bonnie Cumberland said if the grant was funded the council would need to talk about setting aside money for trees and a retaining wall for affected property owners.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.