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River-to-River Greenway Trail in West St. Paul Moves Forward

I’ve been a big proponent of the River-to-River Greenway Trail in West St. Paul, including a tunnel under Robert Street. I’ve blogged about it, I’ve got the T-shirt, I talk to everybody—seriously, my barber asks about it and just this week I told the bank manager about it while getting something notarized.

This week the West St. Paul city council approved an agreement with Dakota County that’s a big step forward for the trail and tunnel. It’s been a long process, and we were in danger of losing $2.2 million in state money if action wasn’t taken by the end of the year.

But we did it.

The Projects

Let’s be clear: This is not a simple trail project. It factors in at least three different development projects—the YMCA, Thompson Oaks Golf Course, and the proposed Town Center I development on the west side of Robert Street.

Getting everything to line up and everyone on the same page has not been easy.

But Hy-Vee officially came on board this week with plans to purchase the YMCA site, and that meant the pieces started to fall into place.

It’s Not Done

But let’s also be clear: This isn’t a done deal yet.

To secure the state money, we still need the Dakota County board to approve some changes West St. Paul made to the deal. Then we need approval from the Met Council.

Two city council members, John Bellows and Anthony Fernandez, were quick to remind people that the project isn’t done and it’s too early to celebrate.

As evidence of that, former mayor and current city council candidate David Meisinger (whose inappropriate behavior should disqualify him from public office) tried to derail the project in the middle of the council meeting. Unfortunately for Meisinger, the council approved the project unanimously.

(Meisinger specifically asked to remove an item from the consent agenda to be considered separately. John Bellows made a motion to do this, though he said he would still vote to approve the item. With no second, Bellows’ motion was not heard. The vote to approve the consent agenda as is was 4-1 with Bellows voting no.)

Just last week, Fernandez expressed doubts about the project:

“Plunking down a tunnel and then developing around the tunnel is not necessarily the best use,” he said. Redevelopment plans should take priority, he said: “There are other things happening in the city that are just as important.”

Keep Moving Forward

I’ve talked before about all the benefits a regional trail and tunnel can bring to West St. Paul. I think we’re getting there, slowly but surely.

It’s been incredible to see the community come together and rally around this project. We’ll keep watching and working to move this forward.

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