BE ALC planning bike racks
The Active Living Coalition is laying the groundwork for the future quite literally.
In their Nov. 28, meeting at the new welcome center in Blue Earth, the ALC reviewed the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) active living action plan with regards to their new bike racks, kiosk, and signs, as well as the hope of future trails and routes in the city.
With the introduction of the new SHIP specialist, LaNay Hervey, a group of 12 members of the community, including ALC members, discussed the future of biking and walking in Blue Earth.
The ALC received a grant to purchase bike racks, route signs, a bike repair station, a kiosk, as well as four rentable bikes for visitors stopping by the welcome center. This spring, the group hopes to have the necessary plans set in place to give those allocated items a new home in Blue Earth.
Hoping to keep their project as local as possible, the ALC?has reached out to Winnebago Manufacturing, along with other potential community businesses, to assist in making and designing the new bike
Eight custom-designed bike racks will be placed throughout the city of Blue Earth at points of interest around the city.
“I know I have gone through the city a few times to see where we need some bike racks,” said member David Kittleson.
Some of those locations potentially include Gazebo Park, Kwik Trip, Steinberg Park, St. Luke’s, as well as other locations. However, the ALC members did state that if there were other places of interest where the bike racks should be placed, they would encourage members of the community to reach out to any Active Living Coalition member.
The group also discussed the possibility of working with the city in the future to construct a “complete street” policy with the city. The idea of a complete street policy is to work with the city when a new road construction project is created, and would guarantee the replacement or inclusion of sidewalks in that plan. Currently, the city does not add sidewalks to any road construction projects that are not already in place.
“I know we have had a few folks against the idea of a complete street project,” said Blue Earth city administrator, Tim Ibisch. “It’s something that I’m sure would have some pushback, but I think it’s a good idea to include sidewalks in any future street reconstruction plan.”
“The idea is to give safe access to anyone who needs it,” stated ALC member Sue Ellingsen.
With the lack of sidewalks in some portions of the city of Blue Earth, members of the meeting addressed seeing people walk unsafely on streets that did not have sidewalks. The hope of a complete street policy would eliminate any safety hazards while also allowing access to anyone in need of sidewalk use.
“Some people may see it as a detriment to have more sidewalks,” said Hervey. “But if you look at other towns who are flourishing, walkways, bike paths, and safe routes to establishments are key to young families. I think we should continue working with the city and street development team to figure out some ideas for the future.”
The city of Blue Earth has approved their Safe Routes to School plan, which includes adding sidewalks out to Blue Ridge Apartments in 2021, following a complete reconstruction of Leland Parkway in 2020.
While on the subject of reconstruction, the topic of trail connection came up as well. This discussion was brought up by bike enthusiasts who would like to see the city connect its existing bike trails together. As it is now, there are a few bike trails that are isolated throughout the city. Their hope is to connect those isolated trails together in order to create not only a cohesive trail plan for visitors of Blue Earth, but to create a safer biking and hiking trail for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds.
“The good news is we have permission from the school to gain access to the north side and east side of the high school,” said Kittleson. “It does not cover the cost of the trail plan, but at least the hurdle of permission is over.”
With a lack of sidewalks and walking trails around the Blue Earth Area High School, members of the ALC hope to add sidewalks in the future not only for student use, but community use as well.
As the city prepares to redo the streets around Sailor Street, the ALC found out East Street and Second Street would be connected, allowing for more trail and bike traffic flow in the northwest portion of Blue Earth. Ibisch informed the committee the city would be going forward with Second Street all the way through to Highway 169.
“It will be a big upgrade for that area of town,” said Ibisch.
“The time to figure out how we can get trails and such down there is now,” said Kittleson. “It would be pretty silly to come in after the project is complete. Who do we talk to?”
City councilman John Huisman directed Kittleson and other members of the ALC towards Mary Kennedy, who is Blue Earth’s Economic Development specialist.
“Wes Brown of Bolton and Menk would be the guy to talk to about design, but Mary would be great to use her contacts to see about funding for trails during that street improvement project,” said Huisman.
With construction season at a stand still for the winter, the ALC has their work cut out for them as they continue to plan and create more than just sidewalk connections for the city of Blue Earth.