By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
The feasibility studies are done and the plans are mapped. What the proposed Camp Ripley/Veterans State Trail (CRVST) now needs is money.
On Oct. 11, the community was invited to attend the monthly meeting of the CRVST. Because of the expected crowds, it was held at the Morrison County Government Center instead of the usual venue at Camp Ripley. Those attending were given a picture on where the trail now stands and what they can do to get it built.
The CRVST is one of the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) newest trails, authorized by the Minnesota Legislature in 2009.
The presentation, given by Reinitz and Sen. Paul Gazelka, gave people in the areas affected by the CRVST and adjoining trails an update on its status.
“We talked about what the trail is and why it needs to be constructed,” said Reinitz.
Also present was Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R), from District 11.
“We asked the senator to be a part of this program since he is the chairman of the committee that manages the state’s Legacy Funds through the Environment and Natural Resources Committee,” said Reinitz. “The trail committee wanted to know how to proceed and Gazelka pointed us in Ingebrigtsen’s direction. He told us we need to show the senator how much we needed this trail in our area. We need him to get behind this project.”
Gazelka said the CRVST meeting was important in that multiple communities were present, showing Ingebrigtsen and others that consensus was being built.
“It’s now my job to build that same support for the trail at the legislative level,” he said.
Reinitz said the problems in Central Minnesota include low incomes, an unhealthy population and the lack of any major industries.
“We need to bring something else to the area,” he said. “That something is tourism.”
Reinitz cited the small town of Lanesboro in southern Minnesota and what the Root River Trail has done to improve the community.
“It’s made a huge economic impact on that area,” he said. “Tracking shows an average of $46,000 is spent annually from local trail users and $2.2 million from tourists.”
The CRVST will complete a 35-mile missing link between the Crow Wing State Park to the Soo Line Trail. The trail will complete the world’s longest continuously paved off-road bike trail (300 miles).
When later expanded to Fargo, N.D., and points south of the Soo Line Trail, it will complete a 500-mile loop, a perfect two-week bike trip, said Reinitz.
“Since it will draw people from around the world, other communities that connect to the Soo Line Trail are just as excited about the CRVST as we are,” he said.
A corridor study was done with Bolton and Menk Inc., Brainerd, to logically place the trail through Morrison, Crow Wing and Cass counties. The money for the study came from cities, counties, ATV clubs and more. A three-mile wide corridor was penciled in to help make sense of where it could feasibly be located.
At the same time, the DNR also did a study. The results of those studies on the trail’s proposed locations are found on the Web site www.crvtrail.com or the DNR site at www.dnr.state.mn.us/input/mgmtplans/trails/camp_ripley_veterans.html.
Reinitz said there is no abandoned railroad bed to use for the CRVST, which is good and bad news.
“A railroad bed would save money in creating the trail. In that respect, it would be better to have one. But, not having a flat railroad bed to use gives the trail builders the opportunity to run the CRVST though virgin forests and close to the Crow Wing and Mississippi rivers, thus giving riders diverse views,” said Reinitz. “The cost will be more, but it will attract more visitors.”
Reinitz said that since the studies are done, it’s now time to find funding. The CRVST will be part of the DNR State Trail System and funding will in all likelihood, come from state Legacy Funds. When the money is approved, land can be acquired and construction will begin.
“We need to talk to our legislators about the need for the CRVST,” said Reinitz. “Their session starts in January and we need to keep this project in the forefront.”