Nobles County trail project earns state honor
WORTHINGTON — A team of engineers from the Nobles County Highway Department were recently honored by the Minnesota County Engineers Association for design and completion of the 2.3-mile trail system on the west edge of Worthington.
Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder accepted the Highway Safety Achievement Award during the association’s annual meeting in late January in recognition of the county’s work to improve pedestrian safety.
The walking and biking trail, which extends from Olson Park along Crailsheim Drive to Oxford Street and then east and south to Centennial Park, offers a path for students to access Worthington Middle School, while also extending to other facilities such as the Worthington Area YMCA, Minnesota West Community and Technical College and senior housing complexes. It was completed last fall.
“Nobles County and the city of Worthington have been working together, along with the school district, for safety since the middle school was built on the west side of town,” Schnieder said.
In 1991, the county paved the gravel shoulders along West Oxford Street to create a walking and biking lane for students and the general public. As traffic increased on the west side of town, so too did concerns about safety.
“(The trail) provides a safe place for people who are still active, but don’t necessarily want to be out on a roadway walking, or don’t feel safe in that environment,” Schnieder added.
Even before the new trail was paved, pedestrians utilized its gravel surface to exercise and stay off the heavily traveled Nobles County 35 and Crailsheim Drive.
“It was a good indication that people were ready for it to be there and were anxious to be able to use it,” he said.
The $975,000 trail project was paid for with a $740,000 federal trails grant, with the additional dollars coming from the State Aid construction fund.
This winter, county crews are keeping the trail open to pedestrian travel, although Schnieder is hopeful the county and the city will eventually discuss future maintenance of the trail.
“The trail is reasonably clear,” he said. “I think people are using it when the weather permits.”
While the county’s award recognized the trail system, Schnieder said the project also included drainage improvements to help solve some of the community’s stormwater runoff issues on the west side of town. Partnering with Minnesota West on the construction of the E.O. Olson stormwater pond, the drainage work is hoped to alleviate flooding issues on the college ball fields and the Worthington Country Club.
“When you work real hard and you’ve been working on safety on the west side of town to improve it for the kids and for recreational activity, it means a lot that the state recognized all of our hard work and gave us this award,” Schnieder said.
This was the first time Nobles County has received the Highway Safety Achievement Award for one of its projects during Schnieder’s 31-year tenure.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.