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Mississippi River Trail is taking shape

The Mississippi River Trail will extend from South St. Paul to Hastings. Ultimately, the trail will be part of a 3,000-mile trail system that goes from Lake Itasca to New Orleans.

Dakota County has been hard at work in recent years to acquire the land it needs to build a 27-mile trail that would stretch from South St. Paul to Hastings.

As of Wednesday morning, it was expected they’d have the final three parcels needed to complete the project.

The county came to an agreement last week with the family of the late Richard Mauch for their land. The county was proceeding with condemnation proceedings with two more parties— Lou Gramsey and the Bill Sorg family.

Provided that deals are in place for the land, Dakota County can soon begin building its portion of a 3,000 mile trail that would connect Lake Itasca to New Orleans.

“Nationally and regionally, it’s a pretty significant trail,” said Dakota County’s Chris Hartzell, the senior project manager.

The 27-mile long trail in Dakota County is expected to cost tens of millions of dollars, which will be paid for from a number of different checkbooks. The funding comes from cities, the county, the state and the federal government. Hartzell said the trail has been in development since 1998, and that affixing a firm price tag to the project isn’t an easy thing to do. He did say he would work to assemble the numbers and would share them in the coming weeks.

The 10 foot wide paved trail will be open to all non-motorized traffic.


Hartzell said the Mississippi River Trail will go a long ways in connecting the various greenway spaces the county envisions down the road.

He said that there won’t just be one standalone trail that runs from Hastings to South St. Paul. Rather, there will be a variety of trails in the western part of the county that all link together, eventually connecting with the Mississippi River Trail.

“We’re not trying to make a regular trail along a road,” Hartzell said. “We’re trying to make a greenway system. We’re looking at ways to connect people to natural areas. We’re interested in providing a great recreational experience, improving water quality in the areas we pass through and providing great separation at major roadway crossings. It’s really about building this great recreational experience, rather than just adding a trail for people to walk on and ride on.

“There’s a bigger picture to it.”

Take, for example, the new Whitetail Woods Park planned just north of Farmington. An 11-mile long greenway called Vermillion Highlands will run from the park to the Lebanon Hills Regional Park greenway hub.

It would link up with the Rosemount greenway, which would run east to the Mississippi River Trail. The county also has plans for a river-to-river greenway, which would connect the Minnesota River greenway to the Mississippi River Trail.

More information on this system can be found at

National connection

The 27-mile portion of the trail that runs through Dakota County connects to a larger 3,000 mile trail that runs from the headwaters of the Mississippi at Lake Itasca all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

More information on the trail can be found at