In place of a public meeting in September, the Lake Links Association board of directors, comprising members from communities around White Bear Lake, will meet to discuss progress and remaining tasks to complete a dedicated route for bicyclists and pedestrians around the lake.
As an advocacy organization, Lake Links has focused on two critical elements to complete a safer route for the public. Those elements are the identification, location and acquisition of sufficient right of way to build a great trail, and the appropriation of funding that will enable local units of government to make the necessary improvements.
With regard to the first goal, Lake Links has delved into documents more than 160 years old and spent hours researching Washington and Ramsey county records, as well as working with the right-of-way staff and library services at the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Maps as old as the 19th century and aerial photographs dating back to the early years of flight have also been located and reviewed.
During this effort, Lake Links has researched traffic conditions and identified about 3 miles of public road appropriate for trail use. It has located documents delineating more than a mile of publicly owned land suitable for the trail. The scope, width and actual location of right of way associated with public roads has been investigated, revealing available routes in critical areas.
There is still work to do, particularly with understanding and locating usable land. In addition, Lake Links will need to complete discussions with a number of families whose land abuts important elements of the trail. To date, owners of more than a mile of property useful for the trail have informally agreed to accommodate the trail. “We are very grateful for those commitments and will be working in the next months to garner more,” said Lake Links Ramsey County Co-chair Mike Brooks.
Public agencies have provided great support in the Lake Links research. “The surveyor’s office of Washington County, the public records departments of both Washington and Ramsey counties, and especially MnDOT staff have provided remarkable service helping to locate critical historical documents, and providing surveying services,” said Washington County Co-chair Steve Wolgamot. “Including very recent commitments, we now have informal agreements covering more than 96% of the ideal trail route.”
Trail progress is appearing on the ground, with completion of trail elements in north Mahtomedi expected within weeks, including a privately donated bridge in Streetcar Park. Work on Birchwood Road in Mahtomedi will begin in the spring. Construction of 1.5 miles of trail along South Shore Boulevard is funded. Ramsey County, White Bear Lake and White Bear Township are working to determine final design for that part of the trail, which represents fully 15% of the 10-mile route.
Preliminary engineering has been undertaken and financed for 100% of the route, demonstrating the practicality of completion, and 80% of the route is designated, completed or funded.
Lake Links will work with the State Legislature in the upcoming session to obtain funding for elements in Dellwood, along Highway 96 and for a short stretch in Birchwood, the only unfunded areas remaining to complete the trail. Legislative efforts have been led by local legislators: Sen. Chuck Wiger, Rep. Peter Fischer, former Rep. Matt Dean and current Rep. Ami Waszlawik; Rep. Leon Lillie; Sen. Richard Chamberlain, Sen. David Senjem and Sen. Karin Housley. The willingness of local governments to step up is also critical to the completion of the trail. Lake Links expresses gratitude to White Bear Township, Dellwood and Birchwood, with special thanks to White Bear Lake and Mahtomedi, whose existing city trails make up a significant part of the route.
“Our slogan, our goal and our commitment remain unchanged,” Wolgamot said. “We will get this done.”