Archived Story

Glendalough finally getting trail built

Published 7:01am Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thanks to the zealous efforts of Battle Lake residents, as well as the congressional help of Bud Nornes and Dan Skogen, Glendalough State Park will finally get its paved bike and pedestrian trail built.

The trail, which is expected to be fully completed in 2014, is the result of several years of dreaming and two years of hard planning on the part of the Lakes Area Development Association (LADA) and Dan Malmstrom. LADA is an organization dedicated to improving economic development in the “central lakes region” of Otter Tail County, and Malmstrom is a nationally-known business executive who makes his home in Battle Lake.

Over the years, Malmstrom has spent much of his busy schedule on projects dedicated to enhancing Battle Lake and the surrounding area. After LADA completed a comprehensive plan for economic and community growth, the organization approached Malmstrom to be on the board of directors.

“Given my commitments and travel schedule — and, frankly, my desire to work on very tangible projects — I declined the board opportunity but offered to champion the trail initiative that was called out in the plan,” Malmstrom explained in an e-mail interview.

The “trail initiative” was not a concrete plan of LADA’s, but rather a stated objective. Malmstrom began turning it into something concrete two years ago, when he first sat down and began formulating how the trail could be used and how LADA could get it built. However, Malmstrom said, he didn’t get the project done by himself.

“Many people across the city of Battle Lake, (Otter Tail) County, and the DNR have assisted me, as it was a learning process,” he stated, later adding, “We have some great people in the county (who) are willing to help. They don’t have the bandwidth to do something like this themselves, but they supported my efforts repeatedly and enthusiastically.”

The trail system was eventually split up into three distinct segments (all trail segments will be 10 feet wide, paved, and built for both bikers and pedestrians). The first segment connects a pre-existing bike trail that begins in the city of Battle Lake to the park entrance, as well as to Whitetail Lane Road, a pre-existing road equipped with bike lanes. The second segment begins at the other end of Whitetail Lane Road and loops around the park, running along Annie Battle Lake and Molly Stark Lake.

The third segment (the “Molly Stark Segment”) connects Segment Two (the so-called “Glendalough Trail Loop”) back to the park entrance, creating an unbroken biking trail loop around Glendalough Park, as well as giving the park further exposure by connecting it to Battle Lake.

Malmstrom said he expected the benefits of the trail to be “profound.” One of the plusses, he stated, is that the trail loops instead of just going from point to point. He predicted that families will utilize the trail more because of this, interacting with the rest of the park and even with Battle Lake.

Another positive aspect of the trail, Malmstrom explained, is its connectivity. “The trail intersects with the northern tier of the US bike route at (County) Highway 16, giving further exposure to the lakes area as a recreational destination,” he said. What this could mean for economic development in the area remains to be seen, Malmstrom noted, but he said it’s sure to be good.

“Research has shown that trails like this one can bring a significant economic impact to the adjacent communities – ranging from $750,000 to $5,000,000 annually,” Malmstrom said. He added that one of the best things about the trail is that it takes advantage of the natural tourism draw of the area while not negatively affecting the environment, assuring that the lakes and ecology remain pure.

Funding for the trail was split up by segment. Segments One and Three were funded by a combination federal Transportation Enhancement grants and privately-donated funds. Segment One will be completed in 2013, and the Molly Stark Segment will be completed in 2014.

Once those segments were funded, Malmstrom said, getting funding for the Glendalough Loop became much easier.

“Once DNR and State officials saw that a Glendalough Park trail segment truly was part of a complete system, lots of people got excited about the possibility of funding,” he explained. “There is reluctance at the state level to fund ‘isolated or point-to point-trails’ that do not connect to other resources. This trail concept was a perfect model once the peripheral trail segments were locked down.”

During the 2010 Minnesota legislative session, armed with the proof that the loop would not be simply a point-to-point trail. District 10A Representative Nornes and District 10 Senator Skogen successfully advocated to keep $350,000 worth of funding for the loop in the state’s bonding bill. The trail will be completed in 2011 or 2012.

Malmstrom stressed that by no means did he undertake the project alone. He thanked LADA, private donors, members of the Otter Tail County Highway Department and members of the West Central Initiative for their help.

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