There were plenty of smiles Tuesday at the White Sands Trailhead Facility as a number of project partners were finally able to cut the ribbon on an extension of the Mill Towns State Trail.

Though the extension is only just a mile in length, the new trail segment has a whole lot more meaning – not only has it been discussed for decades, it’s one piece of a bigger puzzle that will further benefit the city of Faribault, its businesses and its residents. For partners, including the Faribault Parks and Recreation Department, the Faribault Flyers bicycle club, Faribault Sno-Go Club, the Mill Towns Trail committee and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the celebration was just another indication that hard work pays off.

Once complete, the trail will connect the cities of Faribault, Northfield and Cannon Falls, completing a nearly 100-mile trail across southern Minnesota.

Recent developments related to the long-discussed Mill Towns Trail include a 2016 milestone when the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced it had acquired a 6-mile piece of land along an abandoned Canadian Pacific railroad line that runs from Faribault to Dundas. The DNR owns 9 of the 11 miles needed to complete the Rice County connection, and while much of that has yet to be developed due to funding, the local section in Faribault is about to start what trail enthusiasts hope is the beginning of a snowball effect.

In Faribault, another large project the Parks and Recreation Department continues seek funding for is an underpass below the railroad bridge on 20th Street (Hwy. 3).

The new section of trail on the west side of Hwy. 21 – from 17th Street NW to the White Sands Trailhead Facility – also features a bridge over the Cannon River, keeping users off of the busy highway.

Currently within Faribault city limits, the city boasts 8.4 miles of local paved trails, providing beautiful views along the rivers, giving folks access to the historic downtown and much of the city’s natural offerings. With this extension, and more connections expected in the future, the city will soon have a 10-mile loop around the city.

And with Faribault at the heart of the connection between the Sakatah and Cannon Valley trail, the city will continue to reap the benefits of being a southern Minnesota destination for area trail users.

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