from Prevention Minnesota
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Northwest Region Parks and Trails Division recently awarded the contract for construction of the Paul Bunyan Trail and bridge project spanning Highway 197 in Bemidji. Construction will begin around March 19 and be completed around Aug. 15, weather permitting.
The new bridge and trail will create a continuous connection between the city of Bemidji trails along Lake Bemidji to downtown, and to the Paul Bunyan State Trail on the south side of Lake Bemidji.
The project will provide a safe trail crossing at a very busy city intersection – Highway 197 and 1st Street. It will nearly complete the Paul Bunyan State Trail development on the northern end of the trail, except for a one-half mile segment along Clausen Avenue, which may be completed later this year or in 2014. The only other remaining undeveloped section of the Paul Bunyan State Trail is between Crow Wing State Park (to be completed in 2013) and Brainerd/Baxter.
“This project is a small but important part of a huge trail system,” said Tony Walzer, DNR’s Northwest Region Parks and Trails Division acquisition and development specialist. “It is nearly the last of many that have occurred over the past 20 years along the entire length of the trail since the Legislature authorized the trail in 1988, and land was first acquired in 1991.”
The Paul Bunyan State Trail, when complete, will be approximately 120 miles long and extend from Crow Wing State Park (south of Brainerd/Baxter) to Lake Bemidji State Park (north of Bemidji). Presently at about 112 paved miles from Brainerd to Bemidji, the Paul Bunyan State Trail is the longest continuously paved trail in the Minnesota state trail system, and one of the longest in the United States.
Locally, the project will enhance the trail system in Bemidji and provide much better connectivity for the area trail users. Regionally, it will appeal to tourists who are looking for the opportunity to take advantage of this extensive trail system.
“This is a wonderful improvement for the area,” said Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji. “We will see a significant upgrade in terms of safety and an enhancement in the connectivity of local trails with state trails.”
The $1.75 million project was funded by the 2011 legislative session through bonding. It is a cooperative effort between the DNR, city of Bemidji, Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) and Ottertail Power Co.
Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, helped secure funding for the project in the Legislature by pointing out that the project “was ready to construct in a short period of time.
“I want to thank all the people at the local and state level that worked to make the funding for this trail bridge a reality,” said Persell. “The safety of trail users will be significantly increased by having a bridge over Highway 197, and for that I am grateful.”
Construction will consist of a painted, steel-truss bridge over Highway 197 (Bemidji Avenue and Paul Bunyan Drive) and 2,740 feet of trail with bituminous surfacing for bicycle, pedestrian and snowmobile trail use. The bridge will be in three sections, with a 200-foot center span over the traffic lanes and 125- and 100-foot approach spans. It will have a 12-foot walkway with a concrete deck, handrails, decorative abutments and piers with architectural details to match the bridge over the Mississippi River. It will also boast a 54-square-foot trail logo/sign of Paul Bunyan at the bridge midpoint on both sides.
“The Highway 197 and First Street intersection has the highest traffic counts in the city of Bemidji,” said John Chattin, Bemidji city manager. “This new trail bridge will provide a safe way for all Paul Bunyan Trail users to cross Highway 197. The cooperation between the city, DNR, Mn/DOT and Otter Tail Power has been the key to making this project a reality. This will be a great enhancement to the Paul Bunyan Trail and will be appreciated by thousands of users.”
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned once construction is completed in late summer.
Article Published: 03-26-2012