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A meeting at Hilltop Hall in Montgomery Wednesday night inspired discussion on the Czech Heritage Trail to potentially link Le Center, Montgomery and Lonsdale. Pictured, landscape architect Gabrielle Grinde indicates possible landmarks along the trail, which the three communities helped develop during the meeting. (Misty Schwab/Lonsdale News Review)

If plans fall into place, more than a common school district will connect Le Center, Montgomery and Lonsdale. A proposed biking/walking path will literally connect the three communities.

The concept for the path, called the Czech Heritage Trail, came into being last year. Mark Preissing, while working as community education director for Tri-City United Schools, met with the three city administrators and applied for a Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) grant to connect Le Center, Montgomery and Lonsdale. SMIF has funded a feasibility study with a $10,000 grant, and the estimated time of completion for the study is January 2019.

For the first time, members of all three communities attended a meeting to share their opinions on the trail’s development. At Hilltop Hall in Montgomery Wednesday, representatives from Hoisington Koegler Group and Region Nine Development Commission conducted the meeting and facilitated discussions.

Gabrielle Grinde, landscape architect for Hoisington Koegler Group, said the study requires looking at mapping options, casting an analysis and estimating construction costs.

“We’re anticipating this trail could be a 20-year master plan,” said Grinde.

At an earlier meeting excluding community input, Grinde said discussion focused on coordinated planning efforts. The group at the meeting considered road projects that may impact a future trail.

In the discussion at the community meeting, Grinde invited attendees to brainstorm possible key destination points along the trail. Meeting participants listed possibilities such as breweries, wineries, pizzerias, the three downtown areas and historic landmarks like the Lonsdale Veterans Memorial. Grinde said the goal is to have the trail run through a natural landscape.

Meeting participants also listed potential project partners, including the TCU School District, the Le Sueur and Rice County Highway departments, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, city chambers, community clubs and township boards.

During the last portion of the meeting, participants divided into groups of three or four people to discuss and map out potential trail routes. Each group received a printed out map of Le Center, Montgomery and Lonsdale. Some referred to larger aerial maps of the three communities to develop pathways.

Sam Parker, community development planner for Region Nine Development Commission, encouraged participants to think about the larger picture because people from outside communities, like Mankato, could realistically travel to the TCU area to explore the completed trail.

“This is a potentially really exciting opportunity for Le Sueur and Rice counties,” said Preissing, who will receive updates on the work in progress before the feasibility study is finalized. “I think a lot of people are really excited.”

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-744-2551. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty.

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