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County pursues funding for Phase Two of St. Louis River Trail

The pavement is barely dry on Phase One of the St. Louis River Trail from Carlton to the Park-and-Ride lot along I-35, but local officials are already looking ahead to completing the next two phases of the project over the next two to three years.

Carlton County commissioners gave Trail Project Director Mark Roberts the go ahead on Tuesday to apply for $75,000 in grant funding from the Coastal Waters Program.

Roberts explained at the board's regular session this week that the grant funding would go toward preliminary work on the five-mile Phase Two segment of the project, including historical and environmental reviews and a right-of-way study. Roberts added that it is hoped the work could be done in time to submit design plans for the 2011 or 2012 construction season.

He explained that Phase Two of the trail project would extend from the Park-and-Ride lot through to the hydroelectric dam along the St. Louis River in Cloquet. Since the majority of the land belongs to Minnesota Power and Sappi, with only a handful of private landowners, he said he anticipates the right-of-way acquisition for this phase of the project should be more streamlined than in Phase One.

He said a total of five landowners would stand to be impacted. Roberts informed commissioners that the Coastal Waters grant application, if successful, would require a 50/50 match and explained a request has been submitted to the Minnesota Legislature for an additional $750,000 in funding through the 2010 bonding bill.

"We won't accept the Coastal Waters grant unless the bonding request goes through," said Roberts.

He went on to say the city of Cloquet has agreed to take on the task of drawing up the design specifications for Phase Three of the project, which will extend one and a half miles from the hydroelectric dam to Dunlap Island.

He explained that since that phase of the project is the shorter of the two, the plans are more likely to be drawn up in time for the April 15 deadline for the 2010 construction season.

The board gave Roberts the go ahead to pursue the Coastal Waters grant. In the meantime, he told commissioners he has initiated correspondence with local legislators to request the first three-mile segment of the trail be put on the state trail list in order to provide for ongoing maintenance through the state.