Fight ensues over Spring Lake Park Reserve bike trail

For some, the wood chippers inside the Spring Lake Park Reserve are the first step to an incredible new bike trail along the Mississippi. For others, the disappearing trees are a nightmare and a waste of untouched natural resources.

"The tree damage is not just the initial construction, but residual tree damage years from now," Holly Jenkins, a concerned resident, said.

This week, Dakota County broke ground on a 4.3 mile stretch of paved trail cutting through the popular park reserve. It's one of the final links that will allow bicyclists to ride all the way from St. Paul to Hastings. The project comes with an $8.9 million price tag and involves the controversial step of eminent domain, the government seizing property from owners unwilling to sell.

"Bike networks are valuable. Natural resource parks are just as valuable. We can have both. One shouldn't come at the expense of the other," Jenkins said.

Steven Sullivan, is the Dakota County Parks director, said an amazing amount of planning and work went into the layout and design phase of the project and pointed out that once complete, the trail will consume just 2 percent of the reserve.

He added every significant hardwood tree that has to come down will be replaced 10 times over when construction is finished. The grand plan is to link it into a much larger network of paved trails and bike ways to connect communities like south St. Paul, Eagan, Rosemount and Hastings. That worries those who want Dakota County to leave its protected natural resources alone.

"It's important with a park along the river that we do our due diligence in both providing recreational as well as providing natural resource protection," Sullivan said.

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