Committee works to bring Camp Ripley Veterans State Trail down the home stretch

1 Feb 2023

Community, Economic Development, News

The Camp Ripley Veterans State Trail (CRVST) Committee is preparing to take a big step toward getting the trail completed.

Frank Gosiak, chairman of the committee, said the trail has been in the works for roughly 16 to 18 years. However, there is a great deal of red tape to cut through and funding needed to bring such an ambitious effort to life.

Once completed, the CRVST will be a multimodal — meaning it can be used by walkers and bicyclists, as well as ATV riders and snowmobilers — trail stretching from the Soo Line Trail south Little Falls, going all the way up to the Baxter area, where it will loop north of Camp Ripley and come back south. Gosiak said it will be the longest paved trail of its kind in the world.

“I still want to see it going because I know what it will do for Little Falls,” Gosiak said. “We’ve done studies. It’s just not my hunch, what this trail could do for everything. ... That’s going to draw in people. It already is. We’re getting people from the east and west coast all the time using the Soo Line and stuff.”

The first segment, from Charles A. Lindbergh State Park to Mill Island Park in Little Falls, was completed in 2019. Now, to move forward, the CRVST is looking for funding to complete the necessary engineering and environmental studies necessary to lay more trail.

The city of Little Falls is taking care of a portion of trail from 18th Street Southeast to County Road 7 (Haven Road) on the north side of town. That will be part of the trail for motorized vehicles, and the next round of funding will help connect that section to the Soo Line Trail near Blanchard Dam.

The non-motorized portion that ties into the Soo Line will travel along the west side of the Mississippi River, connecting with the completed segment at Lindbergh State Park.

“We did a feasibility study, some of the engineering and stuff,” Gosiak said. “Now we’re going to be asking for money so we can get this totally engineered and ready to put the paved section in, plus we have to deal with two bridges along that section.”

Another key section is Little Falls to the new Minnesota Military Museum at Camp Ripley, which is slated to be built in the coming years with the help of state bonding money. The next round of funding for the CRVST will also be used for an engineering and feasibility study along that stretch.

There will eventually be a trailhead at the Military Museum, along with at Lindbergh State Park, Randall, Pillager, near Baxter and more locations throughout the trail.

To complete the stretches from the Blanchard Dam to Little Falls and from Little Falls to Camp Ripley, the CRVST Committee is asking for $1.5 million in bonding money.

“Rep. (Ron) Kresha’s on board,” Gosiak said. “He’ll carry that in, because we have to have a representative carry that into the House. Then we need someone to carry it into the Senate.”

From Camp Ripley heading north, the CRVST Committee hopes to utilize the county road system on the west side of Highway 371 for the non-motorized portion of the trail. That will provide a safer and more scenic route for walkers and cyclists.

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