Forgotten Trails

Posted by Doug Shidell, July 27th, 2013

Forgotten Trails

Two short trails on the north side of I-94 in Washington County have provided an innovative, but little used, connection for cyclists traveling east toward the I-94 river crossing at Hudson, Wisconsin. They connect the intermittent segments of Hudson Blvd between Manning Ave and Neal Ave and between Neal and Stagecoach Trail. The Neal to Stagecoach Trail segment loops behind the I-94 rest stop and provides cyclists with a convenient spot to take a bathroom break, fill water bottles and by a snack.

The innovative part of these trails is that they turn two dead end streets into bike routes. The streets themselves have almost no traffic because they go nowhere, but the trails make them part of a through route for cyclists. By contrast, Hudson Rd, on the south side of the Interstate, is a through road and heavily traveled by motorists.

I’ve had the trails on the Twin Cities Bike Map for nearly 20 years and make a point to ride them at least once between updates to check their condition. I did it again two weeks ago. I found weeds 18 inches tall growing through the cracks in the trail and several small sinkholes along the edges of the asphalt. The trails had been deteriorating for a number of years, but their current condition makes them barely rideable for now, and probably suitable for mountain bikes only in a few years.

Before removing them from the map, I decided to contact MNDOT to learn more about their future. I discovered that MNDOT didn’t know they existed. Over the course of 10 emails and two weeks I learned from Gina Matteco, MNDOT’s metro district bike coordinator that no one, including Gina, knew they existed. After digging through the archives, they found the paperwork.

They also discovered that they are responsible for maintaining the trails. This is unusual. MNDOT’s policy is that all trails built in their right of ways have to be maintained by local entities, such as counties or cities, but these trails were built before that policy became the norm, so maintenance is the responsibility of MNDOT.

Gina is an advocate for bicyclists, but she is also a realist. She made it clear that MNDOT’s budget is stretched thin and no money is available for trail maintenance. She will visit the trails next week, then try to persuade Washington County to take over maintenance. She isn’t optimistic.

I have to remove the trails from the Twin Cities Bike Map, a choice I make reluctantly. I’ve studied alternate routes, but none are as direct and traffic free as the north side of I-94. I realize that this is a small loss for cyclists, especially in light of how many improvements we’ve seen for the cycling community over the years. But I enjoy finding and presenting the little gems that make cycling in the Twin Cities area a little better. This was one of the more obscure finds, but one that is incredibly valuable for a select few riders.

Filed under: Bikeverywhere News