Leaders need good information. They also need to make sound financial plans. We believe Fairmont's elected officials are on the right track as they consider building trail extensions in town.
Engineering firm Bolton & Menk has drafted an "active transportation plan," using state grant funding. The plan outlines a system of trails that would help people get around town without using a car, namely by using sidewalks and trails. The idea is to connect neighborhoods to key destinations, provide more off-road trails and complete loops around the lakes.
The plan identifies short- and longer-term priorities, as well as outlining estimated costs. All totaled, the bill amounts to about $2.5 million over 20-plus years. Much of the funding could come from state and federal grants.
Does this mean all the work will happen? No, it does not. City leaders, with input from constituents, will make decisions about trails in coming years. What the plan does is offer a blueprint for everyone to consider, while city staff goes to work seeking potential funding.
Certainly the notion of low local costs is appealing, although it is not certain how big this tab might be. Seeking state and federal dollars is a way for local residents to get back some of the money they send to St. Paul or Washington. Of course, had those dollars never left, people here could make use of them without the middleman.
In any case, if citizens want an improved trail network - and there is some evidence they do - then the most important thing, in the end, is building a system that will be useful over time. Accomplishing that goal had to begin with a plan, which the city now has in hand.