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You spoke, Cannon Valley Trail listened

Cannon Valley Trail is open year-round for bicycling, in-line skating, skateboarding and many other recreational activities. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
Two skiiers take advantage of a snowy trail through Welch. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

Whether it's a frigid winter day with ice hanging from the trees, or 80 degrees and sunny with birds singing, Cannon Valley Trail is open year-round, every day, for visitors to soak in its natural beauty.

The trail may be old, but so is the Master Plan. After the trail was dedicated in 1983, asphalt surfacing was completed in 1992, as well as the Comprehensive Plan Supplement for the almost 20-mile trail. These plans, as required by the state of Minnesota, are to be updated in order to keep the parks and trails maintained and accommodating.

Through an open-public process, CVT has been preparing and updating its 20-year-old-plus Master Plan, with the goal of bettering the trail, per the public's input. After extensive research, planning, discussing and listening, Cannon Valley Trail will announce the finalized document later this spring.

Administered by a nine-member Joint Powers Board, composed of three local citizens and six elected officials, the group has worked diligently since last summer to improve the trail. The public, however, continues to play a large role in keeping the focus on those who care about it most.

Online surveys, and social media outlets have provided substantial feedback for the JPB.

From a survey in August last year, the public noted the top-three factors that make the trail experience valuable to them: opportunity for exercise, immersion in nature and a well-maintained trail.

County Commissioner Brad Anderson agreed that the Master Plan should reflect the needs and desires of the public. "Any time you're working on a long-range master plan like that, it's hard to quantify what the future's going to be," Anderson said. "On that trail, it's just to preserve, yet enhance the experience a person receives when they ride, ski, walk ... and not to lose that contact with nature."

Bruce Blair, the first-ever CVT manager and current independent consultant, discussed facility improvements alongside the trail in the plan.

"Old West Main should be your gateway to the Pottery District and right now it doesn't work for that," Blair said, hoping to improve the trail in Red Wing. "People get to the end of the trail and think the experience is all done. It should serve as a gateway to Red Wing."

Moving forward

A few issues brought up by citizens include:

• Once more free trails connect to CVT, how will this affect the fee program and enforcement?

• Welch Station Access needs a visitor center to provide shelter, modern restrooms, picnic space and performance area.

• More parking at Cannon Bottom Road access, stronger image and better understanding of relationship to Anderson Center.

• Attracting new users to the trail, especially younger populations.

Each year, CVT has about 90-100,000 visits. Blair noted that the percentage of visitors under 18 years old has dropped immensely since the 90s, from 39 percent to just above 13 percent, based on a survey CVT conducted last fall.

"We're becoming older, the millennial generation is just not as interested going and spending a day alone in the woods," Blair said. "You got a long, skinny, narrow trail with lousy cellphone coverage, so what do you do about it?" From adding Wi-Fi coverage in buildings along the trail to forming stronger relationships with local organizations, CVT has brainstormed ideas to strengthen the demographic. The public has also suggested a BMX mini-course alongside the trail for kids.

Overall, the CVT encourages feedback from the public while the Master Plan is still in progress. Make sure to stay involved while the plan goes underway, with February marking the last time for public input. To voice your opinion, visit cannonvalleytrail.com and click "Contact Us," or email info@cannonvalleytrail.com.

Kit Murray

Kit Murray joined Red Wing Republican Eagle in Aug. 2016, covering government, transportation and public safety. She is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead with a degree in photojournalism and philosophy. 

(651) 301-7874
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