City seeks thoughts on trail system

FAIRMONT — The city of Fairmont has teamed with Bolton & Menk Inc. for an innovative process aimed at updating the public and gathering input on the Active Transportation Plan, the community’s bike and trail system.

Called an online open house, the concept allows residents go online to review the ATP, which was originally completed in 2013, and offer comments about the completed and proposed segments of the plan.

“It’s not a survey, it’s just providing comments,” said Troy Nemmers, city engineer/public works director. “We asked a lot of questions in 2013 when the Active Transportation Plan was originally done, but there’s been a lot more discussion about trails in the last four years. This is to reinforce what we looked at in 2013.”

One of the aims of the online open house is to offer a convenient venue for comments, one that doesn’t require people to fit a physical meeting into their schedules. While the idea of an online open house is new to the community, Nemmers said Bolton & Menk has used it successfully in other situations, such as gathering public input for a corridor study in Mankato.

The online open house is accessible through the city’s website, www.fairmont.org, and clicking on the yellow trail logo at the bottom of the page. The site, which features maps from the ATP master plan, identifies recently completed segments and short-range, mid-range and long-range plans for more off-street trail connections and potential completion dates and costs for proposed trails.

“Part of this is to determine if there are more opportunities for off-street trails, where those would be, where do people want them, and recognizing the cost of construction and maintenance,” said Nemmers, adding that the estimated costs in the materials do not include land acquisition. “This will be used as a guide going forward for future trail projects and incorporating some of these trail concepts into our street improvement projects where we’re rebuilding the street.

He said incorporating an on-street designated bike lane or squeezing in a 10-foot off-street bike trail while incorporating existing infrastructure can be challenging, but a trail system is a feature that is popular in many communities, not just Fairmont.

“It’s definitely an amenity that residents are looking for,” Nemmers said. “We have the lakes, which are a nice amenity for the community, but I think a lot of people are expecting trails. That’s part of the community they’re looking for, the opportunity to get out and walk, bike, Rollerblade.”

The online open house continues through Sept. 29. Those people who do not have access to a computer can pick up paper materials and comment forms at City Hall or the Martin County Library. For more information, contact Nemmers at (507) 238-3942 or at tnemmers@fairmont.org

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