The Hennepin County Board has put the latest Downtown Twins stadium plan on a fast track to the State Legislature, and in so doing, tacked on a provision to preserve space for the proposed Cedar Lake Bike Trail extension.
The media spotlight has shown brightest on the county's controversial request for a 0.15 percent sales tax to subsidize the stadium. Meanwhile, David Klopp, a member of the Cedar Lake Park Association, has a flashlight pointed on the bike trail.
Klopp describes the Cedar Lake Bike Trail as the country's first "bike freeway." It runs approximately 3.5 miles from Downtown's 7th Street & 3rd Avenue North to Highway 100, paralleling the Burlington Northern tracks. It passes Cedar Lake and offers connections to other bike trails.
The proposed Downtown extension would give cyclists a link to the Mississippi River and the University of Minnesota. The proposed trail follows the tracks through Downtown - and will compete with the stadium for air space.
"We know it is a small site and the stadium is going to have to be cantilevered over the railroad tracks," Klopp said. "The question is, what happens to the trail? Nobody was really talking about that. That is why we have made it an issue."
Klopp worries that plopping a stadium down over the bike trail could either create a dead end or make the trail so undesirable that people won't want to use it.
"We want a seamless trail," he said. "It might go up on a skyway, it might be on a bridge. We are not real big on the tunnel idea. There is a safety aspect. I don't think women feel real safe going into a tunnel."
Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin offered an amendment to the stadium plan, which directs county staff to ensure that the future design of the ballpark optimizes transit and bicycling opportunities along the Cedar Lake Regional Trail, specifying that the trail would not cross Downtown streets.
A five-member "Ballpark Commission" would make final design decisions. The preliminary plan is that the county and governor would have two appointees each and the city one.
Klopp just wants to make sure the bike trail stays on their radar. The Twins press conference announcing the stadium plans talked about the great links to I-394, light rail transit and the proposed North Star line, but it ignored the bike trail, he said.
"We didn't get so much as a breath - that here is the nation's first bicycle freeway tying into this site," he said.
It should be viewed as another amenity, Klopp said: "The Twins are a family sport, so is bicycling. It makes sense to use it as another way to get down to Twinsville."