Updated: February 21, 2020 01:51 PM
Created: February 20, 2020 07:28 PM
(ABC 6 NEWS)--The Harmony-Preston Valley Bike Trail brings countless tourists to southern Minnesota every summer. For three decades, a group in Harmony has been working to expand it down to Iowa.
In 1989, the Harmony Trails Commission set out to establish multiple bike routes that would connect the small town to other trail systems.
"Our main mission was to make Harmony the best place to live, work and play,” said Vicky Tribon, community member and trail advocate.
By 1996, a trail was complete. It connected Harmony to Preston and the Root River Trail System.
"That was my introduction to Fillmore County was the beautiful trail,” said City Attorney Greg Schieber.
The city always planned to add six more miles to the trail, connecting it to Iowa.
"It seemed like every time we had a trail proposed route we'd get all of the landowners ready to sign and there'd be a hiccup. We would go back and try to get an alternate route and we'd give up just for a little bit. We never let it lay too long,” said Tribon.
At the end of December 2019, the city officially acquired the 15 parcels of farmland needed to construct the trail.
"Of course they were compensated for the land but that's a onetime compensation rather than the ongoing productivity they might have received from land otherwise,” said Schieber.
Tribon said they worked to route the trail in a way that would affect the landowners as little as possible by trying to establish the trail on unproductive farmland.
"The trails would not be possible without the generosity of the landowners,” she said.
The next step for the city is to donate the land to the DNR, which will then move forward with construction. The trail will also connect to the Niagara cave.
"The roads when it comes to the cave are not necessarily the safest when it comes to bicycling down and so this would be a more direct and safer route for these folks,” said Co-manager of Niagara Cave Aaron Bishop.
Harmony’s Economic Development Coordinator Chris Giesen hopes it will be a big boost for tourism.
"Niagara cave is one of the biggest tourist attractions in southeastern Minnesota, for sure our county. To be able to connect the city with our businesses downtown to that attraction this will be much more scenic and family friendly,” he said.
Construction of this portion of the trail is expected to begin in 2021.
The total cost of the trail expansion will be about $1.75 million. That money comes mostly from state bonding dollars but also from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources and community donations.
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