Dec. 21—BENSON — Citizens working to develop a recreational trail linking Kerkhoven and Murdock have won needed support from Swift County.
The Swift County Board of Commissioners unanimously agreed on Dec. 8 to pledge $60,000 toward a grant application by the KMS Trailblazers. The county's support is a prerequisite for the group's application to the Minnesota Department of Transportation for a Transportation Alternatives Program grant.
The KMS Trailblazers will be applying for $274,000 in MnDOT funds to develop what will be the first of three phases for the project, according to Dave and Terri Barrett.
The first phase would be built entirely within the city of Kerkhoven. A hard surface trail would be developed within Pillsbury Park and on Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg School District property.
The trail would also include a painted and signed route on the north side of Wyoming Avenue that would connect the park and school.
The KMS Trailblazers will now be seeking support from the city of Kerkhoven and the school district. The city and school will each be asked to pledge $20,000 toward the project, for a total of $40,000.
If the grant is approved, the local government funds would be used toward the costs for engineering and project development. The MnDOT grant funds would be applied toward construction costs.
If the project is approved, most of the local funds would not be needed until 2026.
Since the first phase of the trail would be on city and school property, those two entities will be asked to provide long-term maintenance, according to the Barretts.
The commissioners voiced support for the project as a recreational asset to make the county a better place to live and to attract and retain residents.
* KMS Blaze the Trail finding support for linking Kerkhoven and Murdock
* Proposal for Kerkhoven-to-Murdock trail finding early support
New census data show many rural counties in the state are continuing to lose residents. The population loss was a subject during an address by State Demographer Susan Brower at the recent Minnesota Association of Counties convention.
Commissioner Gary Hendrickx said the state demographer offered her opinion at the convention: "If you want to attract people, you have to be looking at doing these kinds of things," he said.
"To me, it comes down to two questions," said Commissioner Pete Peterson. "Do we want to have something or do we want to have nothing? If we spend nothing, I can tell you right here what we're going to have."
The commissioners said their main concern acting in support of the applications was to not unfairly obligate future county boards. With that in mind, they included in the resolution a stipulation that funding toward the county support would come from the board's 2021 and 2022 discretionary funds.