by Connor Cummiskey
APG of East Central Minnesota
Below are descriptions for alternate routes at each gap in the anticipated Great Northern Trail. The votes counted only include those cast at the public engagement event. The online poll closed June 20, but the results have not been made public as of press time.
The first gap begins where the existing trail ends at the south side of Zimmerman, near the intersection of Main Street and Morrison Avenue. The two options here run to the publicly owned railroad grade that crosses Fifth Avenue North, just west of Second Street East.
The first route would cut west across Lion’s Park and Zimmerman Elementary Park. It would turn north near the baseball fields to Zimmerman Elementary, where it would turn west again to meet County Highway 45. The route would follow the west side of the highway north until it reached the intersection with Fifth Avenue North. There it would turn east and follow Fifth Avenue North to the railroad grade.
Option two would follow along Morrison Avenue, then continue on to Second Street East. The route would split from Second Street East just north of where it intersects with Second Avenue North to connect with the railroad grade.
Results from the engagement event showed option one was the most favored by a slim margin of 5-4.
The second gap begins in northern Zimmerman near some wooded land north of the Zimmerman Community Church and runs north. There are five options proposed to cross this gap.
Both of the first two routes start heading west, parallel to Goldfinch Lane, before turning back north along County Highway 45. Option one would run across the highway and continue on the west side, whereas option two would turn north and stick to the east side of the highway.
Alternate three would continue the trail along the railroad grade until it is even with 269th Avenue. There it would turn west and run along a wetland until it met Highway 45, where it would turn back north. The east-west portion of this option could become part of 269th Avenue if the road is expanded eastward.
The fourth alternate would continue the trail along the railroad grade directly through privately owned land that options three and five skirt around.
Option five skirts the wetland by swerving to the east approximately one-quarter of a mile north of Zimmerman city limits. It would loop through privately owned land until swerving back toward the original railroad grade near the cul-de-sac at the end of 127th Street Northwest.
Route one was the most popular during the event, garnering three votes. It was followed by route 5, with two votes. Both routes two and four received one vote and route three received none.
The third gap begins just north of the second gap and ends near Highway 45 where the publicly owned railroad grade begins a little ways north of 277th Avenue Northwest. It offers three routes for the project.
Option one and two both continue the trail along Highway 45. Route one runs along the west side of Highway 45 and route two runs along the east side.
Route three runs along the existing rail grade until it intersects with 273rd Avenue, where it turns west. It runs along the avenue to the intersection with Highway 45. There it turns north along the east side of the highway until it reaches a portion of the rail grade that is currently publicly owned.
Route one was the most popular with four votes, followed by three votes for route three and two votes for route two.
The fourth gap is roughly around the area of 281st Avenue Northwest on Highway 45, just southwest of Cantlin lake. There are two options, which run along Highway 45.
Route one would run along the west side of Highway 45 from Zimmerman to 313th Avenue in Princeton on the publicly owned right of way.
The second route runs on the east side of Highway 45. It would leave the publicly owned rail grade at the intersection of 281st Avenue Northwest. It would turn west toward Highway 45 and run north alongside the highway for a quarter mile until it shifts back east to the publicly owned rail grade.
Route two was the most popular with five votes versus three votes for route one.
The next gap covers the length of the trail from around the northern shore of Cantlin Lake to where Highway 45 intersects with 293rd Avenue Northwest. There are four options for bridging this gap.
The first option continues the route along the west side of Highway 45.
Route two would leave the public railroad grade at 287th Avenue and run along the east side of Highway 45 for 1 1/4 miles. The route would return to the railroad grade at the intersection of 297th Avenue.
Routes three and four leave the railroad grade south of 289th Avenue Northwest to skirt the south and east sides of residential properties on 289th Avenue Northwest and 127th Street Northwest. Option three would run around the north side of the properties before heading straight north to 293rd Avenue to meet back up with the railroad grade. The fourth option instead skirts along the east side of the residential properties and heads straight north to 293rd Avenue, where it turns west and follows the avenue until it meets the railroad grade.
Route two was by far the most popular with seven votes, compared to a single vote for routes one and three. Route four received no votes.
The sixth gap is generally between 287th Avenue and 297th Avenue in Baldwin Township, south of the township hall on Highway 45. Route options one and two would both continue to run along Highway 45, except option two would deviate to the east just south of where Highway 45 intersects with 297th Avenue to return to the railroad grade.
The third option would continue on the railroad grade north of 293rd Avenue Northwest for about a quarter-mile, until it shifts west to run along Highway 45. It would return to the railroad grade just south of 297th Avenue Northwest.
Route four would be an grade-separated trail along the north side of 293rd Avenue heading east to 125th Street. It would turn north on an existing trail through a residential neighborhood for about three-quarters of a mile before turning back west to meet the existing railroad grade.
The first route was the most popular with four votes. It was followed closely by route four, with three votes, route three garnered two votes and route two received a single vote.
There are only two options for the next gap, which begins south of Baldwin Township Hall and runs north of where Highway 45 intersects 305th Avenue.
The first option is to run the trail along the eastern side of Highway 45.
A second option would be to run along the existing publicly owned railroad grade, which is almost parallel to Highway 45 but a little to the east, until the publicly owned portion ends south of 313th Avenue Northwest.
The second route was by far the most popular with five votes, versus two votes for the first alternate route.
The eighth gap stretches between two ends of the publicly owned railroad grade. It starts a little south of 313th Avenue and runs to the road. North of 313th Avenue the publicly owned railroad grade begins again.
Option one continues the trail along Highway 45, but turns east near 313th Avenue and runs to the railroad grade.
The second option at this gap would leave the publicly owned railroad grade and head east for about 900 feet to Highway 45. It would run alongside Highway 45 until it turns back east near 313th Avenue to return to the railroad grade.
Route three is similar to number two, except it only heads east for about 350 feet. Then it would turn north, run across private land before returning to the railroad grade near 313th Avenue.
A fourth option leaves the railroad grade south of 313th Avenue and instead heads east, skirting around the south side of Central Fleet Services before curving north to meet 313th Avenue. There it doubles back to the west to meet the publicly owned railroad grade north of 313 Avenue.
Route four was the most popular with three votes. Route one earned two votes, while route three had a single vote. No votes were given to route two.
The next gap begins where the publicly owned railroad grade ends in Princeton — at South Rum River Drive just west of the traffic circle on the south side of town. It stretches to the north end of town, where gap 10 begins.
The first option would continue north from South Rum River Drive before veering northwest to run along South 10th Street. It would turn north to follow South 19th Avenue before splitting off to run north alongside the eastern edge of the airport, meeting with 21st Avenue South. It turns west again at First Street, following the curve north where it turns into 100th Avenue.
Route two heads east at South Rum River Drive until it reaches Highway 169, where it would run along the west side of the highway on a grade-separated trail.
Options three and four both turn east at South Rum River Drive and follow it until the intersection with Northland Boulevard, where they both turn east. They follow Northland Boulevard until it approaches Fairview Northland Medical Center, where both routes cut north again, passing Princeton High School to meet up with 11th Avenue South.
Both options follow 11th Avenue South until they diverge. Alternate three heads west on First Street, following it until the road curves north and becomes 100th Avenue.
Route four continues on 11th Avenue South until the intersection with Second Street North, where it turns east. The path would run along Second Street North until it turns north on North Rum Rive Drive, which it would follow passed the traffic circle.
The third route earned seven votes, followed by route one which received two. Route four received a single vote and route two received none.
The options for gap 10 run north of Princeton, until they meet back at the publicly owned railroad grade near where Baptist Church Road turns into 40th Street.
Route one would continue the trail near 100th Avenue until it turns east on Baptist Church Road. The route would follow the road along its south side until it meets the railroad grade.
The second option would run parallel to Highway 169 on a grade-separated trail in the public right of way until it meets the railroad grade.
Option three runs along North Rum River Drive. It follows North Rum River Drive where the road crosses Highway 169, then continues on where the road becomes Baptist Church Road, which it follows until it meets the railroad grade.
The first route was significantly more popular than the other two, receiving eight votes compared to the single vote routes two and three both received.
The 11th gap begins on the south side of Pease, just east of where 115th Avenue becomes Vedders Avenue. Each route option runs up to where the publicly owned railroad grade begins again on the north side of West Main Street.
Route one would cut directly west until it hits 115th Avenue. It would follow the road to Central Avenue, where it would turn north and follow the avenue to the intersection with West Main Street.
The second route would enter Pease from the south and veer slightly to the east to avoid existing townhomes. It would then shift back west to the original railroad grade and follow that north to West Main Street.
A third option would enter Pease from the south, but veer further east than option two. It would then veer back west a little ways south of First Avenue, before continuing north near Central Avenue to the railroad grade.
Route three received by far the most votes with eight. Route two received a single vote and no votes were cast for route one.
Gap number 12 starts north of Pease, near the intersection of 120th Street and 120th Avenue and continues until the publicly owned railroad grade starts south of Milaca.
The first option would keep the trail on the original railroad grade until it meets the grade that is currently publicly owned.
Alternate two would run along most of the original grade, but cut east to 120th Avenue, north of where it intersects with 120th Street. This route would follow 120th Avenue north to the railroad grade, where it would cut back west to meet it.
The third option also follows the original grade for some length, but leaves it about where 120th Avenue and 120th Street intersect. It would then follow 120th Avenue north to the publicly owned railroad grade.
Two hand-drawn routes added to the map cut to the west and followed 125th Avenue north. The fourth route continued north to Highway 23, while route five turned back east to meet the railroad grade where the first three options ended.
Route four was the most popular option with six votes, but it was closely followed by route one, which had five votes. Two votes were cast for route five and routes two and three received no votes.
The final gap is on the southwestern side of Milaca. It begins east of County Road 5 Northwest, near the intersection with 133rd Street. All the routes then run north to cross Highway 23 West and meet on the publicly owned railroad grade, which begins on the north side of the highway.
Option one cuts west from the existing grade, running along the southern boundary of a private farm to County Road 5 Northwest. It would run north along the western side of the road until it crosses Highway 23, when it would cut back east to the railroad grade.
The second route follows the publicly owned railroad grade a little further north, before cutting west to County Road 5 Northwest, skirting the north end of the same farm as option one. It would then run along the east side of County Road 5 Northwest, across Highway 23 and back east to the railroad grade.
Option three would continue straight along the railroad grade, across privately owned land, until it met the publicly owned grade north of Highway 23.
Route three was the overwhelming favorite, with nine votes. No other alternate received a vote.