Engineer John Welle discusses possible routes for the new trail.

On Oct. 23, local figures, including Mayor Gary Tibbitts, Representative Dale Lueck, Aitkin County Land Commissioner Rich Courtemanche and Aitkin County Engineer John Welle met to discuss the construction of a bike trail system between Aitkin and Deerwood.

The section would be the last part of a loop that connects northern Minnesota cities including Brainerd, Bemidji and Crosby.

The intent of the meeting was to find out where to start the process, and set it in motion. Many details on where the trail would be placed, who would maintain the trail and what the trail would cost to begin with were unknown, although John Welle estimated $200-300,000 per mile, depending on any additional infrastructure being required (such as bridges). Trail placement also depends heavily on public land available, and willingness of private land owners to give up space for the project if needed. There was some discussion of running the trail parallel to Hwy. 210, in a right-of-way already secured by the state. However, it was noted that the easiest route wasn’t always the best route. After all, if bikers didn’t enjoy traveling on the trail, there wouldn’t be much purpose for it.

Officials at the meeting indicated full support of the project moving forward, however, the trail is a long-term project, and may not materialize for another three years or more.

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