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Trail plan hearing likely to be feisty

McLeod County will be hosting a public hearing Tuesday, May 3, at 9:30 a.m., on its proposed trail plan. The meeting will be at the Glencoe City Center.
We expect there will be a lot of debate at the hearing, and we hope people present their views respectfully and civilly.
The County Board’s 2012 decision to put $500,000 toward the paving of the Luce Line sparked a lot of backlash many in the public, and it divided the board.
In 2012, the county was still struggling with a flagging economy, and many thought the board should be putting money toward other priorities.
On the other hand, there was those who argued that the county’s financial commitment was vital to leverage funding from other sources, most notably the state of Minnesota. And proponents felt that a paved trail would help boost the county’s economy for the communities along the trail, including Hutchinson, Silver Lake, Lester Prairie and Winsted.
There is no doubt the 2012 decision left a sour taste in the mouths of many, and lately trail funding has become a focal point for many. In fact, 10 of McLeod County’s 14 townships have passed resolutions asking the board to table the adoption of the plan and to do a cost-benefit analysis on the impact of the paving of the Luce Line.
The County Board commissioned the plan in 2015 at the request of the park and highway departments. The original goal of the plan was to make sure that any trail improvements — or new trails, for that matter — would be coordinated amongst the various entities so there would be no duplications of effort.
A trail committee was formed to work with the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission, and the make-up of that committee also has been called into question. There are assertions that the committee is “stacked” with Hutchinson and pro-trail members.
The real crux of the argument, though, is who pays for what. That isn’t outlined in the plan, because it’s a moving target. But without a plan, the county cannot leverage for state legacy or bonding funds.
The plan is a tool, not a set-in-stone blueprint for what the county is going to commit to over the next 20 years.
We believe the county does need a trail plan, but it must — as critics have suggested — stringently weigh the costs vs. the benefits each time it considers a trail improvement, just as it does with any other project it undertakes.