Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Red Jacket Trail update

As today's article in the Free Press indicated, the effects of recent flooding in the area have now extended to everyone's favorite Mankato bikeway: The Red Jacket Trail.

The stone support of the scenic trestle bridge on the trail has been partially washed away by the Le Sueur River, making the bridge a danger to collapse (see photo on the right, courtesy of John Cross of the Free Press). The bridge has been closed indefinitely and there are no indications on when it will be accessible again, if ever. A representative from the Blue Earth County Public Works Department said the plan at this point is to repair the bridge rather than tear it down.

"We know how popular the trail is. We're just as anxious to get it fixed as everybody else," the representative said.

I took a quick bike ride out to the bridge this morning to see it for myself, and the area is definitely in rough shape. Aside from the stone support, there's dead trees and other debris floating through the river and Wegel Park is mostly flooded.

I wasn't the only curious cyclist. Several riders made their way down to the park to observe the extent of the damage. The biggest concern among them was whether or not the trail will continue to run all the way to Rapidan, as the Rapidan Dam and accompanying Dam Store are both popular attractions for bikers.

Count me among the concerned. As mentioned in earlier posts, Mankato has an outstanding bike trail system, but the Red Jacket has always been my favorite ride. It's quick, it's scenic, it's well-maintained and it somehow avoids all the major hills in the Mankato area.

The Red Jacket Trail isn't the only Mankato bikeway that has been affected by the flooding. Sections of the South Route Trail down by the Blue Earth River are still slightly underwater and the Minnesota River Trail is also flooded in numerous sections.

However, despite the flooding, there are some brights sides for Mankato busy bodies to look at.

  • Even if the parks department is unable to fix the trestle bridge, there is an alternate route on the Red Jacket Trail that allows riders to cross the Le Sueur River. Simply exit down in Wegel Park and follow the trail until it links up with Highway 66. However, this option is inaccessible at this time for two reasons: The trail is flooded through the park, and the trail passes under the trestle bridge, which at this point is a hazard to collapse. (see third photo)
  • The Mankato Marathon portion of the Red Jacket Trail is unaffected by the flood (though the area around Mount Kato and Highway 66 was flooded previously, so it may be a little soggy). The mile markers for the half and the full are also in place on the trail, so anyone looking to get some practice on the course is still able to do so. Fair warning: The Sibley Park portion of the race (roughly Miles 24-25 for the full, Miles 11-12 for the half) completely flooded (see last photo), so adjust your route accordingly.
  • There is still a wealth of bike trails to utilize in Mankato that have been unaffected by the flooding. My recent favorite has been to bike up Glenwood Ave and explore around the Bethany Lutheran/Main Street area. The Sakatah Singing Hills trail is also still open for riders.
  • In a relative sense, compared to what the good people of St. Clair are going through, this hardly begins to scratch the surface of what living a hard life is like.

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