Trails advocates meet to move path forward

Jess Gorman
Granite Falls Advocate Tribune

On Thursday, November 4 approximately 30 residents from the Montevideo and Granite Falls communities came together for the most recent Minnesota Trails initiative meeting. The large group gathered with the working goal of connecting the two communities through recreational investment. Pastor Paul Drees of Granite Falls Lutheran helped facilitate introductions and opening discussion with the large ambitious crowd.

Patrick Moore of Montevideo has led much of the charge as a facilitator for the Trails group.

Two city managers and three county commissioners were present alongside stakeholders such as the YME school superintendent, the CCM Health CEO, the Granite Falls Mayor and a litany of bikers, hikers, and local nature lovers.

"There was a true feeling mutually understood, mutual benefit, that can arise from trail building that would unite and propel both the communities of Montevideo and Granite Falls towards greater prosperity" said organizer Patrick Moore of the overall unifying theme of the night. 

Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski was one of many Granite Falls residents who made the trek to Montevideo to aid in the Trails Initiative.

A new focus emerged from this meeting. The recently gathered MTI group put a new emphasis on the issue of safety and the importance of safe routes to schools.  "It was apparent that there are a number of trail users and parents who are concerned about how to cross busy highways safely -- so that focus is rising to the top of our future agendas" explained Moore.

The group has had a few well attended meetings but the recent packed house could be an indication of a tipping point arriving under necessary Covid restrictions,  "more people are realizing the importance of getting outside and that we need more trails to do that" said Moore. 

Chippewa County Commissioner Dave Lieser was present to support the connective trails effort.

The next meeting will be held in early January 2022 at the Pioneer PBS conference room in Granite Falls.  Once the date is set the group will notify everyone via press releases and social media to garner attendance.

For the immediate future the group is pursuing three areas for potential collaboration:  "The Holy Grail is completing the Wegdahl to Granite Trail, A secondary focus is safe routes to schools and then we also want to explore new trails  that can serve as loops within each town. We also want to bring more volunteers and support to the Bluenose Gravel Road 50 race being planned for next summer to build on the momentum that event has created" detailed Moore.

Trails interest groups break down what brings them together in an effort to build something new.

The trails initiative work will be ongoing for many years, and group leaders are encouraging of the need for patience, and the willingness to put shoulders to the wheel by attending meetings and talking up the benefits of trails to anyone who will listen and who can become a supporter of the trails vision.

The easiest way is to follow the Minnesota Trails Initiative on Facebook and to get on their mailing list by emailing Geoff Hathaway: hathaway.geoff@gmail.com.  Geoff is the outgoing president of MTI and the group is still looking to elect his replacement.  For the time being Paul Drees has agreed to facilitate upcoming meetings -- his email is pastorpaul@granitefallslutheran.com.

The Trails Advocates group met on November 4 at CCM Health in Montevideo.
There was a wide mix of new and long time community members offering perspective in the effort to connect trails from Montevideo to Granite Falls.
Trails Advocates broke into work groups after introductions to focus on areas of individual interest during the meeting.