WHITE BEAR LAKE — Lake Links Association Co-chair Mike Brooks was prepared with maps and stats to show members of the Senate Capital Investment Committee after their bus ride around the lake. Century College was next on the Jan. 29 itinerary to hear a Lake Links pitch for bonding money. The stop was part of a three-day metro tour to view projects requesting funding. 

The 10-mile trail around White Bear Lake is 80% complete. Major elements were funded by the state in 2018 and the trail association is hoping the Legislature will grant another $4 million in 2020 to finish the remaining 2 miles. 

Those 2 miles are the most dangerous along the route, Brooks said. What Lake Links wants is a separated 10-foot trail adjacent to Hwy. 96 along the north end of the lake. The state road has 11,000 cars per day going 40 mph, Brooks pointed out. The master plan provided the group also includes the Hwy. 244 corridor through Dellwood that needs a separated 8- to 10-foot trail along an upgraded roadway. 

The right of way is there, Brooks said. Research from 1849 on right-of-way sections show there is adequate room, 33 feet from the centerline, to build the trail on 244. 

“You’ve been instrumental in helping us get funding to the 80% level,” he told the senators. “We have 20% left. The trail around the lake is central. It’s a hub, a backbone to local systems. It’s a very important route.” 

Projects receiving bonding money must have skin in the game by providing a 50% match. According to Brooks, Lake Links has provided 67% of the funding or a value of $8,073,000. He was prepared to explain how the trail association arrived at that figure, but the senators didn’t ask. 

Mostly, the match comes in the way of real estate. “We have had land donations from every single community in the area,” Brooks said. “Families are extending land.” He mentioned Joe and Taffy Benson, who donated almost 1,000 feet for the trail, and Blanche and Thane Hawkins, who contributed a significant trail connection. 

The Lake Links co-chair added that White Bear Lake has 40 public access points along the route. “If you want to dip a toe or drop a small boat, you can do it,” he said. “Only five points have dedicated parking, making bike and pedestrian access valuable and essential.”

Sen. Chuck Wiger helped introduce Brooks to his colleagues, noting that the Lake Links effort has received “strong, bipartisan” support. “In my 24 years in the Senate, I have never seen a grassroots volunteer group work this hard to develop this vision,” he said.

In closing, Brooks reminded the committee members that “if we have safety for people, we have mobility and connectivity and economic impact. We are committed and we will get this done.”  

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