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Trail letter contained misinformation, distortions

To the Editor:
Another anti-paved trail letter and the misinformation campaign continues.
A March 7 letter writer laments trail-related actions that county commissioners have taken over the last five years and their resulting cost to county taxpayers. However, as usual, distortions, inaccuracies and irrelevant information are used to make things look as bad as possible.
As with other county projects, the board has simply been doing its due diligence as it explores opportunities to develop the county’s portion of the Dakota Rail Trail. In the process, partnerships have helped reduce some of the costs included, but those are not acknowledged. Staff time is used as an in-kind contribution (thus no additional money outlay), but that is an implied payment. As in any project, changes might need to be incorporated that will serve the project and neighboring property owners better, but that is criticized without proper background and context. The role of others is misrepresented to add to the negative perception that the writer is attempting to create.
As bad as all that is, the worst is the totally false statement that “three county commissioners voted to obligate the county for 20 years of maintenance costs” that “creates a current debt value obligation of $1.8 million.” The truth is the county is currently only obligated for maintenance of the two-mile section from the Carver County line through Lester Prairie as part of the grant agreement approved last November.
Just as importantly, the $1.8 million figure is a continued scare tactic. While based on $100,000 per mile repaving costs provided by the DNR, the writer neglects to mention that repaving the trail within the 20-year grant requirement is highly unlikely based on actual experience and reinforced by a recent study. The writer also fails to acknowledge that the county would determine the amount of maintenance that is done, just like they do with maintenance of county roadways, and in that way will have control over any future expenditure. Partnerships will reduce that further when the trail is completed.
The Dakota Trail in McLeod County is an under-utilized asset that has languished for years. However, developing it will transform it into a regional asset with its linkage to the paved Dakota east of McLeod County and the nearby Luce Line. We are fortunate that its development qualifies for Legacy funding and taking advantage of that funding brings some of the sales tax money that we have all been paying back into the county for the benefit of county residents and visitors. The foresight of our county commissioners and the responsible approach being taken should be appreciated.
Steve Cook