Mississippi River Regional Trail (MRRT)
At a recent Legacy Funding Finance committee hearing (MN House, 2/20/17), the Met Council presented how the Parks and Trails Legacy fund is impacting our Regional Parks System. They highlighted the Mississippi River Regional Trail project where Legacy dollars helped to fund construction for two unfinished sections or gaps in the trail.
Notably missing from their presentation was the irreversible damage this caused to an ecologically sensitive area within Spring Lake Park Reserve.
DNR Recommended Restoration to Rare Native Plant Community
Prior to construction, the DNR sent a letter [DNR letter, 9/23/2013] to Dakota County regarding the project. In the letter, the DNR:
- Recommended avoiding the proposed trail area because it contained a Dry Bedrock Bluff Prairie — a rare native plant community that is vulnerable to extirpation within Minnesota.
- Offered assistance in restoring this area using methods such as brush clearing and prescribed burning.
Instead, Dakota County Board, Met Council, State Legislature Approved Legacy Funds to Construct Trail
Disregarding the DNR’s recommendation, and public opposition to this project, the Dakota County Board, the Met Council and the Legislature approved Legacy funding to complete this trail gap.
Explosives, Eminent Domain, and a $9 Million, 4 Mile Trail
Explosives were used to create a bench cut through the bluff, and 200-foot wide swaths of forests were cleared from land Dakota County acquired through eminent domain in time to build the trail. The estimated project cost exceeded $9 million for the 4-mile trail gap.
It’s worth noting that the park’s approved Master Plan included a different alignment that avoided the sensitive bluff area at an estimated cost of less than $1 million.