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Blazing Star Trail expansion to move forward

If projects go as planned, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will complete repaving and expanding the Blazing Star Trail by fall 2024. This expansion includes a bridge over Albert Lea Lake to connect Myre-Big Island State Park to the existing trail from Hayward, according to a press release.

The Blazing Star State Trail currently runs from the city of Albert Lea’s trail system along Albert Lea Lake to Myre-Big Island State Park, a distance of about six miles.

“It will be great for local residents and visitors to be able to take the trail all the way from Albert Lea, through the state park, to the trailhead at Hayward,” said Bob Furland, chairman of the Freeborn County Trails Association. “This will a tremendous asset for the whole area.”

The public is invited to attend a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 20 at the Edgewater Bay pavilion to learn more about the project. In keeping with COVID-19 guidelines to prevent transmission of the disease, face masks will be required.

A segment of the Blazing Star Trail is slated to be repaved this fall. Provided

DNR representatives will present information and answer questions about repaving and expanding the trail. They have set this multi-phase, multi-year schedule:

• Fall 2021: Repave the trail from roughly Interstate 35 to Freeborn County Road 38 at Myre-Big Island State Park.

• Summer to fall 2022: Repave the trail from County Road 38 to the gravel section of the trail.

• Spring 2023 to fall 2024: Build the trail bridge across Albert Lea Lake and build a trail to connect with the existing trail from Hayward. Also pave the gravel section within the state park.

Because the bridge construction will require some filling in of small sections of Albert Lea Lake, the DNR will need to replace the wetlands lost to comply with state laws aimed at preserving wetlands in Minnesota. The DNR is proposing to expand the wetlands at the city of Albert Lea’s portion of the trail off Garfield Avenue. The city trail consists of two loops around wetlands. The DNR is proposing to take out part of the trail, making one large loop around expanded wetlands.

The trail repaving and expansion are funded by the state and federal government, including Legacy Amendment sales tax proceeds.

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