Published December 24, 2009, 08:36 AM

Construction begins on Agassiz trail bridges

The money’s been in place for a couple of years, and now, after various delays, construction is under way to install three key bridges along the Agassiz Recreational Trail system in northwestern Minnesota.

By: By Brad Dokken , Forum Communications Co. , Northland Outdoors

The money’s been in place for a couple of years, and now, after various delays, construction is under way to install three key bridges along the Agassiz Recreational Trail system in northwestern Minnesota.

Located in Norman, Clay and Polk counties, the Agassiz Recreational Trail is a 53-mile multi-purpose route that runs along an old railroad grade from Ulen, Minn., to Crookston parallel to state Highways 32 and 102. The three bridges, being built over the south branch of the Wild Rice River in Ulen, and the Wild Rice River and Mashaug Creek north of Twin Valley, Minn., represent the final pieces in linking the trail.

The Agassiz Recreational Trail is open to snowmobiles, ATVs, hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders.

According to Gordy Gudvangen, Fertile, Minn., trail administrator of the Agassiz Recreational Trail, the $1.5 million project has been a long time coming. Trail officials initially awarded a bid for the three bridges in May 2008 but the contractor didn’t work out, and that forced the board to go through the bidding process a second time.

Gudvangen said the new contractor started working on the Ulen bridge this month, and the entire project should be completed in early March, if not in time for the snowmobile season, at least for ATV riders in the spring.

“It hasn’t come easy, any off this,” Gudvangen said. “The bridges have been a long process. We’re very excited.”

A bridge crossing the Sand Hill River in Fertile was completed in 2005 at a cost of $300,000.

Once the three steel bridges are complete, Gudvangen said the Agassiz trail will be much safer. Without the bridges, Gudvangen said, ATV and snowmobile riders have had to use bridges along Highway 32.

“We haven’t had any accidents, but when you have snowmobiles and ATVs going up on state highways, you can have a catastrophe,” Gudvangen said.

Gudvangen said he’s especially proud of the bridge that will cross the Wild Rice River near Twin Valley. That bridge, he said, is 300 feet long and will sit 55 feet above the river at its highest point.

The other two bridges are 170 feet long and 12 feet wide.

Jointly owned

The Agassiz Recreational Trail system is owned by Polk, Norman and Clay counties and operates under a seven-member joint powers board with representatives from each county. Gudvangen said funding for the bridge project has come from a variety of sources, including $650,000 from the Minnesota Legislature, state snowmobile and ATV grant-in-aid dollars from licensing and trail fees and a federal transportation fund.

Gudvangen said Sens. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, and Rod Skoie, DFL-Clearbrook, were instrumental in helping to secure funding from the Legislature, and all three counties also have been very supportive. Counties or some other local unit of government must agree to sponsor a particular project before it can receive any state funding.

“Without their support, this never could have happened,” Gudvangen said. “We’ve had some very good people that have sat on our board and had the foresight to look beyond the desk and look into the future of what this could mean to these communities” along the trail.

Gudvangen said he regularly receives calls from the Fargo-Moorhead and Grand Forks areas and as far away as Watertown, S.D., from people asking about the trail system.

“We’re covering a wide area because people want to go to someplace new,” Gudvangen said. “Being a snowmobiler and an ATVer, I know that feeling. These bridges are going to be a valued asset.”

Brad Dokken is a reporter at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald, which is owned by

Forum Communications Co.

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