The Merriam Junction Regional Trail Project completes a decade-long initiative to acquire and convert an abandoned rail bed to a regional, multi-use, accessible destination trail connecting Scott and Carver Counties across the Minnesota River. The project builds on past phases which have accomplished a regional trail master plan, most of the needed land acquisition, completion of trail segments that link this trail to the regional trail networks on both sides of the river, and completion of a segment of trail over Highway 169, a significant barrier on the Scott County side.
The trail and river crossing initiative was identified as a need and master-planned by Scott and Carver Counties in 2011, and the abandoned railway was subsequently acquired in partnership with the Metropolitan Council. It was identified and approved as a part of the regional trail system and as an important component in the Scott and Carver County trail networks to address several gaps and to build on opportunities. There are limited bike and pedestrian connections in this part of the southwest metropolitan area due to the barrier presented by the Minnesota River. Additionally, accessible outdoor recreation opportunities are very limited throughout the Minnesota River Valley in Scott County, despite the large network of state and federal public parks and conservation lands. The accessible trail will run through the Minnesota Valley landscape, along the Minnesota River, and adjacent to both the Louisville Swamp Unit of the MN Valley National Wildlife Refuge and the Gifford Lake Unit of the MN Valley State Recreation Area. Finally, the trail project supports pedestrian access from across the western metropolitan area to public and private outdoor recreation venues that have a statewide draw.
Developing the remaining 2.4 miles of multi-use trail and associated bridges completes the initiative aimed at connecting the regional trail networks of Scott and Carver County across a major barrier (Minnesota River).