Scandia on the right path
(reprinted with permission)
Bike enthusiasts and community members alike turned out in Scandia April 25 to develop trail route maps aimed at creating safe, accessible trails through the community.
Scandia City Planner Sherri Buss received input from community members on potential trail paths during a trail planning meeting April 25. Community members used markers and highlighters to mark potential trails using large city and county maps. Photo by Phillip Bock
City Planner Sherri Buss presented two maps illustrating proposed trail routes. One map showcased trails throughout the city while the second laid out trails in the surrounding area between Scandia and Marine on St. Croix. The maps were developed in response to a grant received from the State that is being used to put together a brochure of parks and trails in the community.
In planning the trails map, city officials took the opportunity to hear from community members and plan for potential future trails.
"It's a nice system of loops, both big and small," Buss said of the large proposed trail system.
Much of the discussion over the proposed trails within Scandia focused on the Elementary School, as those in attendance expressed concern over the current lack of safe walking routes to the school.
"Highway 97 has been identified as the major problem," City Administrator Anne Hurlburt said.
During the meeting April 25, Sue Rodsjo presented results from a survey that asked elementary school parents' their opinions on allowing children to walk to school. The survey results painted a picture of a community with safety concerns over routes to the school. Top issues prompting parents to disallow their children from walking to school included speed of traffic, amount of traffic, distance to school, and unsafe road crossings.
"I would love to have safe bike paths in Scandia. However, Highway 97 is a major problem," one parent wrote.
Other parents had similar comments, challenging trail planners to develop safe routes to the school. Currently, only six students walk or bike to school, numbers some in the community would like to see increase.
Community members giving input into trail planning disagreed Monday on their options to deal with Highway 97. Some wanted to develop alternate trail routes away from the highway while others thought developing an off-road bike trail running parallel to the Highway near the school might be a better option. Though the biggest problem, Rodsjo said, would be developing safe routes to cross the busy highway.
"The only one that seems safe is the four-way stop," Denny Seefeldt said. "The others would need improvements."
The proposed trails, which would use exiting roads and possible paved off-road options, were being developed to submit a grant application to Safe Routes to School, a national program aimed at improving safety for children walking or bicycling to school.
"We want to encourage healthy biking and walking to get kids off the buss and outside to get some exercise," Rodsjo said.
The trail plans also looked at the Gateway State Trail, an 18-mile trail from St. Paul to Stillwater that may be expanding to Scandia in the future. The proposed trail system in Scandia would look to connect to the trial system, Buss said.
"They don't know the routes so far," Buss said of the Gateway Trail. "They said the one decision they have made is it is going to be an off-road trial that does not follow a road."
By the end of the meeting the proposed trail maps were a maze of colored and dotted lines, illustrating the many different opinions and the different trail options facing trail planners.
"The more of these local connections we can do it helps to encourage to DNR to really expedite this," Seefeldt said. "They see the amount of local interest and support these project have."
Hurlburt said she hopes to finish up the maps by June to present them to the city council.
"This becomes kind of an addendum to the comprehensive plan," she said. "It says this our comprehensive trail plan for the community and our list of priorities. Then it is there if a grant program becomes available or in case a roadway project becomes available that we could hook on to. It there's for any possibility for implementation."