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Land owners grumble over proposed Red Wing to Hastings bike trail

The public portion of Tuesday night's open house about the proposed trail from Red Wing to Hastings was more of the same, according to Red Wing Planning Director Brian Peterson. Both land owners who would be affected by the trail and citizens questioning the source of funding voiced concerns in the basement of the Red Wing Public Library.

"This has been troubling for over two years that we've been battling this," Tom Ahern said. "The whole goal is to get the county and the city not to accept this plan because once they accept it we have to defend ourselves for the next 20 years."

Ahern, of Red Wing, is co-owner of a 200-acre parcel that would be cut in half by the proposed trail. The proposed trail would stretch for half a mile through his land.

Jeff Schoenbauer, of the consulting firm Brauer and Associates, gave a presentation about the trail at the meeting and asked the disgruntled attendees to "keep an open mind" and "leave the door open."

Ahern does not consider that as an option.

"We purchased the land for our use, not for public use," he said. "The uniqueness of our property is that we are surrounded by DNR land. ... That is a cherished piece of property. The value would go to nothing. It would destroy the value of the property. The reason we use it is for picnics, hunting, fishing."

At the end of Schoenbauer's presentation, Audra Meighan of Welch Township asked about the proposed trail's environmental impact.

Schoenbauer could not provide a concrete answer to her question because not every landowner whose property would be affected by the trail has allowed him to set foot on the proposed path.

"They want people to say, 'Oh, this is beautiful land, let's cut a trail through it so we can look at it,' rather than appreciating it for what it is and leaving it beautiful," said Meighan, who wore a T-shirt with a recycling triangle screen printed on the front.

Goodhue County Commissioner Ron Allen was more upbeat about the effect the trail could have.

"It's so important for Red Wing to link into Hastings, you know why?" said Allen, who represents Red Wing. "Once you can get into Hastings, from Hastings you can go anywhere in the metro area on a trail network and we don't have that bridge now."

However, few people have championed the recreational or economic benefits of the trail and its estimated 100,000 to 150,000 annual users at the public forums.

"We actually had quite a few people who are supportive of trail projects here also, but they're shy to say anything during the public part of the meeting," Peterson said.

Proponents had a chance to sound off after the presentation Tuesday when Schoenbauer and Peterson met individually with citizens to discuss the trail.

"I think every trail that we've had in the state always starts out like this where people oppose it and then we have to work through issues," Allen said. "It might take a long awhile to work through these issues."