Land purchases fill Soldiers Field trail gap


gap in plans for a trail along the west side of Soldier Field Golf Course

is being filled with land purchased from two neighbors.

The Rochester City Council approved spending $36,500 on two parcels needed to complete the trail without finding a way to bridge the edge of the Zumbro River.

Rochester Parks and Forestry Division Head Mike Nigbur said the cost is "slightly above" the assessed value set by Olmsted County for tax purposes.

The trail was initially estimated to cost $500,000 or potentially more with the need to bridge a curve in the river, where the two adjacent properties didn't provide sufficient right-of-way for the trail.

Nigbur said the acquisition of the two parcels along the Zumbro River could decrease cost estimates for the trail.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is offering up to $250,000, with the city expected to use park referendum funds to cover at least a third of the final costs.

The bike and pedestrian trail is part of

a $20.1 million plan for Soldier Field Park upgrade

s, which is also being funded with state Destination Medical Center funds and federal grant funds.

The new connection of existing trails north and south of the golf course has been

questioned by neighbors

, who have raised questions about the design and the process leading to approval, as well as limited engagement with them.

In July, Nigbur said owners of the two properties at the trail gap had indicated through an attorney that they would not sell the property, leaving the city with three potential options: Move an existing bridge to the site to connect the trail, build a cantilever bridge over the river or create access by building the trail into the floodwall.

In a report to the Rochester City Council prior to Monday's meeting, Nigbur said minds were changed.

"While early discussions with the owners were not fruitful, the owners were recently willing to again discuss the acquisition of the needed area," he said, pointing out that Parks and Recreation Department Director Paul Widman and City Attorney Michael Spindler-Krage participated in the discussions with the property owners.

Council member Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick said the deal with the property owners provided a good outcome.

"I'm glad they came around, because I think this is the best thing for the city," she said.

Both agreements call for the city to provide fencing between the trail and the property owners' backyards, and one of the homeowners asked for the city to provide lighting along the trail that is not directed toward their property.

The trail is expected to be finalized by next summer, along with other Soldiers Field Memorial Park upgrades, which include the creation of a new aquatics facility.