MARSHALL - Some welcome news for a planned bike and pedestrian trail from Marshall to Camden State Park arrived just in time for the holidays. This week, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced it had selected the trail project to receive more than $1 million in Parks and Trails Legacy Grant funding.
"This is a huge step," said Suhail Kanwar, Lyon County public works director.
The development of trails in Lyon County is "something the community has been looking for for almost 30 years," Kanwar said. "It's very exciting."
Kanwar said the trail project would receive a reimbursement grant of about $1.4 million from the DNR.
"It doesn't cover everything we had requested, but it covers most of it," he said. The grant funding will make it easier for the trail project to progress.
"This is a major grant award," said Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig. Million-dollar grants, he said, "don't come around very often. It shows that the state views it as a significant regional project."
The grant was also impressive, given how competitive the application process was. In the letter awarding the trail grant, the DNR said it received nearly $47 million in Legacy grant requests for parks and trails this year, while only $7.5 million was available to give out.
Teamwork and broad-based support for the trail likely helped with the grant application, Martig and Kanwar said. Martig said the state looks more favorably on projects that will actually happen, so support from stakeholders is important. The trail project had received support from Marshall, Lynd and the county, as well as area residents, he said.
Other factors that may have contributed to the grant award include the relative lack of paved trails in southwest Minnesota and the scenic and recreational value of the planned trail. The Marshall to Camden trail will run through some of Lyon County's most populated townships, so it will serve a good number of people, Kanwar said. Trail planners also hope the project will help draw in area residents for recreation.
Kanwar said partnership has been a key factor in planning the trail project. The county has had "exemplary teamwork" with Marshall city staff, including Martig, Community Services Director Harry Weilage and Marshall Public Works Director Glenn Olson.
In turn, Martig said Kanwar also deserved credit for helping to coordinate planning for the trail.
"It's a complicated project with multiple funding sources and multiple government agencies," Martig said. He said Kanwar helped bring stakeholders, including local governments and landowners, together.
Kanwar said some of the next steps for the grant, and the trail construction process, would come in the near future. He said he will be looking for direction from the Lyon County Board, as well as meeting with the cities of Marshall and Lynd about the trail.
Kanwar and Martig said segments of the trail within Camden Park and near Wayside Rest Park in Marshall would be built first. Building and supplying materials for the trail segments will also be a joint effort between the city of Marshall and the county.
The trail project will be just one part of a busy year for Lyon County Public Works, Kanwar said. The county's capital improvement plan for 2013 also includes road and bridge projects and construction for Twin Lakes Park in Shelburne Township.