SLAYTON - The Murray County Board of Commissioners, in a move similar to other county and city organizations in the region, passed a resolution Tuesday supporting state funding for the Casey Jones State Trail in Minnesota’s 2016 bonding bill. 

Members of the Friends of the Casey Jones Trail Association are trying to pressure Minnesota legislators to include $1.25 million in funding in the bonding bill by encouraging other cities and counties included in the trail to adopt similar resolutions. So far, Pipestone County and the city of Pipestone have also adopted the resolution to support the trail, and association members plan to present the resolution at other board and council meetings in the region.

The current bill in the legislature is written to give the trail $846,000. That’s the amount the association requested last year, said District 22A Rep. Joe Schomacker, R-Luverne, author of the measure.

Schomacker plans to amend the bill to increase funding to their current requested amount.

The bill is co-authored by District 22B Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, and District 16A Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent.

If the amended bill is passed by May 23 - the last day the Minnesota Legislature is scheduled to convene - the association hopes to connect and maintain the trail from the city of Pipestone to Woodstock.

Association members hope to use $900,000 of the funds to develop and pave a five-mile pathway from Pipestone County 16 in Pipestone to Woodstock. This part of the project is shovel-ready and will connect the two cities.

An additional $240,000 will be used for an engineering study along a 1.5-mile pathway between Pipestone and the Murray County line. In the future, the pathway would be developed to connect to Lake Wilson.

According to the association, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has given approval for the Department of Natural Resources to complete the study. Some of the funding would also be used to acquire the land.

About $65,000 will be used for interpretive signage, picnic tables, benches and landscaping along the trail around the Pipestone and Woodstock areas. Another $45,000 will be used to preserve and enhance prairie grasses and a horse trail along nine miles of an existing pathway between Pipestone and Woodstock.

If the trail receives $846,000 - the amount currently written in the bill - the association will only be able to complete the pathway between Pipestone and Woodstock, said Amy Rucker, the treasurer of the Friends of the Casey Jones Trail Association.

Since the trail is owned by the state, it cannot receive state grants, Rucker added.

“(The association) has done a good job advocating for it and having the project shovel-ready (before they even receive funding) - so that the funds will be used right away,” Schomacker said.

“We are the first legislatively approved trail and we are the least funded,” said Deb Nelson, the secretary of the Friends of the Casey Jones Trail Association.

She added that people can donate to the association to help fund the project and encourages supporters to call their representatives.

“We will have better chances (of receiving funding) with the more support that is shown,” Nelson said.

“It has a lot of potential down the road to connect parts of Greater Minnesota,” Schomacker said.

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