Buxton Trail

Connecting Owatonna’s extensive trail system is considered a top priority in the city’s Master Park plan, including eventually connecting this portion of Buxton Trail with the North Straight River Trail along Maple Creek. Thanks to a recent property purchase by the city, this new trail segment could actually be feasible one day. (Annie Harman/southernminn.com)

The potential for trail connections along Maple Creek has increased significantly thanks to a purchase made Monday by the city of Owatonna.

During its Tuesday meeting, the City Council unanimously (Councilor Brent Svenby absent) voted to purchase the property at the corner of 11th Street NE and North Elm Avenue from Daniel Bosshart.

The property contains four parcels and a total of 0.87 acres along Maple Creek — a spot that was once identified in the city’s Master Park plan as a possible location for a trail connection between the Buxton and North Straight River trails.

Troy Klecker, community development director, said Bosshart approached about purchasing the wooded property after he decided to no longer pursue developing the lots.

“This is an area for a possible trail along Maple Creek,” Klecker said. “Acquiring this property would leave that option open for a future trail.”

While there is not currently a plan to develop a new trail segment at this location, acquiring land to develop trails is generally one of the biggest obstacles, one of two reasons why staff recommended the council approve the purchase. Klecker said the property would also allow the city to continue its flood mitigation plan as it falls within the floodplain.

The purchase price for the entire property is $11,000. There is also $2,500 in deferred assessments on the property, if it would ever be developed, but Klecker said it would not be developed under city ownership, and therefore that amount would not be repaid to the city.

Approved in February 2020, the master plan for the city’s extensive park and trail system was created with the assistance of consultant WSB. The plan is long range, the same as any master plan adopted by the city.

One of the primary goals of creating this specific master plan was to allow the city to apply for future grants. Most grants in relation to parks and trails require the dollars received to go toward a project that is consistent with the community’s master plan, of which Owatonna did not have until only two years ago.

Kaplan's Crossing

With the Kaplan’s Woods Parkway and 18th Street trails being two of the most popular in town, the city of Owatonna is moving forward with a project that will safely connect the two. The new trail will be a 0.16-mile paved trail crossing the railroad tracks and running along the edge of Kaplan’s Woods in order to bypass the busy parking lot off 18th Street. (File photo/southernminn.com)

Connecting several trail gaps throughout the system is among the several high priority improvements detailed in the plan. Since the adoption of the master plan, it appears the goal was achieved, as the city secured $100,000 last summer from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to connect two of its most popular trails — Kaplan’s Woods Parkway and 18th Street. The new segment of the trail, named Kaplan’s Crossing, is expected to be completed this fall.

Earlier this year, the city decided to take another whack at securing grant dollars for additional trail connections. In January, the council approved an application for a Federal Transportation Alternatives Program grant, requesting $537,656, alongside a 20% match by the city.

If secured, the city would use the money to develop a trail segment connecting the 18th Street Trail from Austin Road to Hayes Avenue. Though the application deadline was in January, it is for the 2026 grant cycle.

According to Parks and Recreation Director Jenna Tuma, the local match could possibly be covered by a Minnesota DNR Local Trail Connections grant, which the city has been a recipient of in the past. If DNR grant dollars are not available, however, Tuma said other grants would be pursued.

“This is a multi-year project along 18th Avenue in the south end of town,” Tuma said, adding that the 18th Street trail is identified in the city’s master trail plan. “It’s been pieced together, and this would be the final linking gap to the trail on 18th.”

Owatonna already has one approved TAP grant coming forward in 2024, Tuma said, to connect the first segment of the trail from Linn Avenue to Austin Road. A second segment will be completed on the east side when a new roundabout is constructed near the new high school. Tuma said that trail connection will be within the roundabout, as well as a spinoff near the Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church.

Reach Associate Editor Annie Harman at 507-444-2378 or follow her on Twitter @NewspaperAnnie. ©Copyright 2022 APG Media of Southern Minnesota.

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