PIPESTONE — Construction will begin soon on the Casey Jones State Trail east of Pipestone in an effort to finish the segment of the trail between Pipestone and Woodstock.

Trail administrator Chris Ingebretsen of Luverne explained that acquiring land for the trail has been in the works since the 1960s, so it's exciting to see that work pay off as this segment is finished.

The 10-mile stretch is currently in various states of completion, Ingebretsen said. Five miles are paved, three are graded and two are what Ingebretsen called two-track —"pretty rough traveling for anyone not hiking."

The finished trail will comprise eight miles of pavement and two miles of gravel — passable for walking, biking and horseback the whole way.

Ingebretsen added that the new stretch being surfaced "is probably the most scenic section of the trail," describing the rolling hills and prairie flowers visitors can view as they pass.

Central Specialties Inc. of Alexandria will carry out construction on the project. The trail will be inaccessible for the duration of the work, but the project is only slated to take 10 to 14 days, so the inconvenience will be short-lived. The deadline for completion is Aug. 30.

The trail connection is possible thanks in large part to the Friends of the Casey Jones Trail Association, Ingebretsen noted.

Mick Meyers of Pipestone, president of the Friends of the Casey Jones Trail Association, said the group has been working for years to secure permissions and funding for the project.

Members meet monthly to coordinate efforts to appeal to state Congress people, lobby for funding and testify in legislative committee meetings.

"It's a long and involved process," Myers said.

Since the five miles of pavement were completed eastward from Pipestone, "there have been a lot of people utilizing the trail," Myers added. Community members walk, bike and run the length of the existing pavement.

Finishing the connection between Pipestone and Woodstock will be a great asset, Myers said, because trail users will finally have a destination on either end, rather than simply turning around when the pavement stops. He envisions food services opening at the ends of the stretch of trail.

Eventually, Myers explained, the Friends of the Casey Jones Trail Association plans for the trail to extend many miles throughout southwest Minnesota, beginning just south of Luverne, then heading north through Luverne and Blue Mound State Park to Split Rock State Park, up through Pipestone, east all the way to Slayton, northeast to Currie, then up to Walnut Grove.