Talking trails in Lincoln County

LAKE BENTON – It’s an ambitious plan, and one that will take years to come to fruition, but the rewards will be worth it, supporters of a Lincoln County trail system said Thursday night.

“If you don’t take the first step, you’ll never get to the end,” said Vince Robinson, executive director of the Lincoln County Economic Development Corporation.

The Lincoln County Economic Development Corporation, the Lincoln County Trail Task Force and the Lake Benton Area Foundation hosted a trails showcase Thursday evening at Hole In the Mountain Park. Area residents could enjoy a hot dog supper, take part in activities and most importantly, walk and enjoy a recently completed 1.2-mile trail at the park. Robinson said the event was a chance both to celebrate the new trail, and gather more support for a county-wide trail plan.

The new trail at Hole in the Mountain was completed last fall. The trail route winds past athletic fields and in one portion has a good view of Lake Benton. Area residents said so far it’s been a hit with visitors and campers staying at the park.

The new trail was made possible through the efforts of the Lincoln County Trail Task Force, Robinson said. The group, formed in 2009, applied for grants through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to fund the trail, along with local matching funds from Lincoln County and the Lake Benton Area Foundation.

“We were fortunate to receive some funding for that,” Robinson said of the Hole In the Mountain trail. He said eventually supporters hope to add on to the trail, to link the park to Lake Benton’s downtown, and to the lake itself. He said the idea of recreational trails in Lincoln County has met with some good support from community organizations in Lake Benton, Hendricks, Ivanhoe and Tyler.

“Recreational amenities are important. They enhance the community,” he said.

Trails offer more to a community than just chances for recreation, said guest speaker Rebekah Reynolds. Reynolds, who works with Minnesota’s Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), said trails like the one in Lake Benton can help improve public health by offering a low-cost way to exercise. The effects of walking or running can be life-changing for a person’s health, she said.

“It’s all about getting people moving,” Reynolds said.

While the new trail at Hole In the Mountain is a definite plus for the Lake Benton community, Robinson said it’s also a first step toward a more comprehensive trail system in Lincoln County. The Trail Task Force and the LCEDC will be applying for a Legacy trail grant to help build another segment in the system.

“So far, our efforts have been mostly around Lake Benton,” Robinson said. Goals further out in the future include trails that will link the county parks around the lake, including Hole In the Mountain, Norwegian Creek Park, and Stoney Point Park, Robinson said. Other county landmarks, like Lake Hendricks and the county fairgrounds in Tyler, would also make good trail destinations. He said it will take some time to fund and build the system out that far.

For a number of the people in attendance, Thursday’s showcase was all about having some fun in the sun. Kids and families formed teams and split up to complete a scavenger hunt around Hole In the Mountain. Organizers made sure all the items could be found somewhere around the new trail.

“I think it’s a nice walk to be able to do,” said Lake Benton resident Renee Willis.