Stillwater has long been known for its rich history, unique downtown businesses and beautiful views of the St. Croix River bluffs. If things go as planned, local access to 180 miles of bike trails will soon be added to that list.
Several trail projects—most notably the Browns Creek State Trail—have positioned Stillwater to be a regional trail destination.
In the coming years, Stillwater residents may be able to step out their doors and onto a system of bike trails that will take them into downtown St. Paul, out to Hastings and all the way up to Superior, Wis.
When looking at the trails being proposed over the next few years, Stillwater is at the crossroads of 180 miles of trails that citizens will have access to and visitors can use, Stillwater City Planner Mike Pogge said. “I think that will be a tremendous asset to the city.”
But to make sure this opportunity doesn’t pass the city by, the City Council unanimously agreed on Tuesday that they will have to work with Legislators to expedite the completion of the Browns Creek State Trail.
With the DNR’s current funding, plans are to begin constructing the Browns Creek trail in downtown, building the trail out to the north and east until the authorized funds are exhausted, Pogge said. Projections are that the initial phase will take the trail to Stonebridge Trail or McKusick Road.
The completion of the trail is dependent upon additional funding from the Legislature or other partners in the project. The DNR believes the earliest the Browns Creek trail will be connected to the Gateway Trail is 2013 or 2014.
“We need partners,” Pogge said. “Both private and public partners. We need to work with the Legislature for more funding to make sure the Browns Creek State Trail is done in a timely fashion. We need to work with two states, several counties and lots of cities to encourage that the trail connections get done—because not every city is on board. We need to get those connections done, because it’s critical.”
The city also needs to start planning.
In the near future, city staff will start looking at how many bike racks will be needed, and where they will go, Pogge said. Staff will look at providing trailheads and amenities, incorporating the parking ramps and soon-to-be-built downtown Plaza into the mix.
The city needs to make sure there are good connections from local to regional trails for residents to use, he continued. And city officials need to work with business owners, the Independent Business Association, the Stillwater Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce in that process.
“To be able to bike downtown, enjoy it and go home … Today, that’s not possible,” Pogge said. “It’s just not user friendly to go up the hill. These trail connections provide that.”
Once these projects are completed, trail users will be able to go from downtown St. Paul to downtown Stillwater and to the Hasting/Prescott area, representing a 40-plus mile route, Pogge said. With other current and future trails systems, users may be able to complete a loop back to downtown St. Paul representing a total trip over 63 miles.
“It’s exciting to see these trail plans coming in,” Stillwater Mayor Ken Harycki said. “It will really impact and change Stillwater.”
A connection from the Gateway Trail to William O’Brien State Park is also still in the works, Council Member Mike Polehna added. That’s part of the Willard Munger Trail that goes all the way to Duluth.
“I still don’t know if people realize what is about to hit them,” Harycki said. “This is a very, very positive development for Stillwater. It’s probably the most significant development we’ve had short of replacing the bridge. It’s the second most important thing for downtown.”
“And when those two things happen simultaneously—when the bridge shuts down—it’s going to be a different city,” Council Member Doug Menikheim said. “It’s going to be better and it’s going to be different. We have the chance to work on that, or mess it up.”
This will be a 5.9-mile route that connects the Gateway Trail at the Duluth Junction in Grant to downtown Stillwater. From downtown Stillwater to St. Paul will be a 19.2-mile trip. The DNR believes that about 75,000 people will use some part of the Browns Creek State Trail every year.
The city plans to extend Browns Creek trail from where it will end at Laurel Street, over to Chestnut Street to connect in the future to the St. Croix River Crossing Loop Trail. If a new river crossing is delayed or doesn’t happen, the city will look at connecting it to Sam Bloomer Way.
If the St. Croix River Crossing project is approved, a trail has been proposed to be developed connecting the existing lift bridge with the new bridge on both the Wisconsin and Minnesota sides The entire loop is about 4.8 miles in length—with about 1.2 miles of trail in Stillwater.
The Metropolitan Council has recently added the Middle St Croix Valley Regional Trail Search Corridor to their trail master plan. This is a proposed regional trail search corridor that will stretch from the St. Croix River Crossing Loop Trail in Stillwater to Interstate 94 and will connect to local trails in Lakeland. This future trail is about 7.4 miles.
The Proposed St. Croix Valley Regional Trail is a 20.4-mile route that will connect Afton to the Hastings/Prescott area. Today a trail exists between Lakeland where the Middle St Croix Valley Regional Trail Search Corridor ends and Afton where this trail is proposed to start.
Future St. Croix River Crossing Loop Trail to Gandy Dancer State Trail
Today the Gandy Dancer State Trail is a 91.8-mile trail corridor that connects St. Croix Falls, Wis., and Superior, Wis., with segments of the trail in both Wisconsin and Minnesota. As part of the St Croix River Crossing Loop Trail, WisDOT has proposed to connect the loop trail to St. Croix Falls. If completed, this nearly 130-mile trail corridor would connect Stillwater to Superior, Wis. Even if the St. Croix River Crossing Bridge is allowed, this connection is not anticipated to occur for a number of years after the bridge’s completion.
Did You Know?
- Trail planning in the city of Stillwater started with the 1918 Comprehensive Plan.
- Today there are 25 miles of trails and 57 miles of sidewalks in Stillwater.