Worthington bike trail dedicated
WORTHINGTON — Community leaders and Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors dedicated the recently completed 2-1/3 mile trail on Worthington’s west side Thursday afternoon with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The trail, which connects Olson Park campground to an existing trail in Centennial Park, cost $975,000 to complete, with all of the funds coming through state and federal grant programs. In addition to providing another option for recreation in the community, the paved walkway provides added safety for residents walking in the vicinity of The Meadows, Worthington Middle School and the YMCA.
“This has been a long project,” said Mayor Alan Oberloh, who took a quick bike ride down the trail prior to the ribbon cutting ceremony. He spoke of the initial meetings between city and county officials regarding trails in the community, and how the county came to take the lead on the project.
“The beautiful part of the project is when the college got involved and we did collaboration with them on the fill,” shared Oberloh. “Until that happened, it was a great deal of extra costs involved.”
Much of the new bike trail was constructed with dirt removed from the Minnesota West Community and Technical College land, where a regional storm water pond was created a year ago.
“By getting that done, it helped us expedite the project,” said Oberloh, who gave the county credit for pushing the project forward. He also said this will not be the last of the trail projects in the community.
Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder compiled a history of the trail project, which was presented following the ribbon cutting by Commissioner Bob Demuth Jr. In the presentation, Demuth spoke of how the city and county first met in 1990 to talk about recreational trails on the west side of Worthington. A year later, the county authorized the surfacing of gravel shoulders to create a safer location for bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
“This roadway improvement served the public for 21 years, but concerns about safety due to the proximity of highway traffic limited the number of people who felt comfortable using the paved shoulders. Safety was still a concern,” Demuth said.
Plans for this new trail were created in 2008, at which time the county board approved two applications for funding.
In the last five years the project moved along slowly, as numerous drainage issues around Worthington Middle School, Worthington Country Club, Minnesota West and residential areas were addressed. Once Minnesota West decided to move forward with a storm water pond, a plan was created to increase its capacity to serve the land north and west of the campus. In turn, that allowed for the bike path to be constructed.
Partners in the project included the city of Worthington, Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District, E.O. Olson Trust, Worthington District 518 Schools, Nobles County Soil and Water Conservation District and Nobles County. By using fill from the storm water pond project, Demuth said the county and Minnesota West saved “hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction costs.” Nobles County Public Works staff designed and engineered the trail.
“This is a great example of what we can do when pooling our resources and working together,” Demuth added.
Minnesota West President Richard Shrubb said it was an inspiration to see private and public entities work together on the project.
“Our hope is that the walkway will continue to go right on around — past the pond and past the ball fields … and the double line of pine trees — we’d like the walkway to go right through that,” Shrubb said. “I know for a fact, when companies come in to look at a place to see if they should start there or buy a building there, they don’t take a Greyhound bus, they fly in on private airplanes and they go around the city and they look for public swimming pools and public walkways and trails just like this one ... because that means that we get along and we’re progressive and we think about what we’re doing.”
Worthington Area YMCA Director Andy Johnson also credited leaders for coming together in a project that connects the community.
“Healthy living and safety are so crucial and so important,” he said, adding that once the trail was completed and the gates were removed, “people have been pedaling that path ever since.”
Johnson, who also served on a local committee in coordination with the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), spoke of the grant dollars used to install more bike racks and establish eight trail signs in the community.
“This stuff gets done and done to a better level with the community working together,” he added. “(People are) able to get a good ride or a good walk around the community. Hopefully it’s a step in the right direction for the future.”
In celebration of the completed trail, the Community Improvement Committee of the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce is selling tickets for a bicycle raffle. A children’s and adult’s bicycle will be given away on Nov. 15, during the holiday parade in downtown Worthington.
Tickets are available for $1 each from any Community Improvement Committee member or from the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce. 1121 Third Ave.
Brenda Hurlbut, who chairs the committee, said proceeds from the raffle will be used for community improvement projects. Up until the drawing, people may see the children’s bicycle at Lit’l Wizards, while the adult bicycle will be on display at Ax Photo.