New trail to create safe option for walkers, bikers along Hwy. 59 in Mahnomen
An area along Hwy. 59, from Jefferson Avenue to Washington Avenue in Mahnomen, is a high traffic area with bikers, pedestrians and vehicles sharing the road.
It’s also a main route into Mahnomen, where most of the city’s jobs, schools, healthcare facilities and shopping and recreational areas are located.
When the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) scheduled a highway improvement project there, staff from Polk-Norman-Mahnomen County SHIP saw an opportunity to increase healthy behaviors in the community and rallied support from local leaders for a new trail.
As a result of community engagement, a new two-way lighted and paved half-mile trail for bikers and pedestrians was included in the highway project.
The original plan was for a 6-foot-wide trail, abutting the shoulder of the highway.
It not only makes the area safer for everyone, it also promotes and supports healthy behaviors. - Bethany Brandvold, Polk, Norman and Mahnomen SHIP
Community leaders were successful in working with MnDOT to change the trail alignment by increasing the width of the trail to 10 feet and separating it from the highway to improve safety.
“That section of Hwy. 59 runs right through Mahnomen,” said Bethany Brandvold, wellness coordinator for Polk, Norman and Mahnomen SHIP. “There currently isn’t a safe easy route for bikers and walkers to get into the city. This trail changes that.
“It not only makes the area safer for everyone, it also promotes and supports healthy behaviors,” she said.
Plans for the new trail weren’t without challenges. MnDOT was already in the project’s design phase and the trail didn’t fit within the existing, approved right-of-way.
Additional land was needed because the trail would cross both private and public land. The land was acquired with the help of a coalition including MnDOT, White Earth Nation, Headwaters Regional Development Commission, the city of Mahnomen, the Mahnomen County engineer and community leaders.
The road, with the paved trail, will be completed next year.
“This project promotes the goals of SHIP and Polk-Norman-Mahnomen Community Public Health Services to support and promote active, healthy lifestyles,” Brandvold said. “It also supports the larger community goal of making Mahnomen a better place to live, work, learn and play.”