Trails on water and land: Met Council releases plan for metro parks

11October 2020

An ambitious new plan for metro area parks doesn’t emphasize parks at all — but instead the trails connecting parks.

The Metropolitan Council is proposing trails to connect Lake Elmo with Lake Phalen in St. Paul, and the Minneapolis Greenway with the Mississippi Gorge in St. Paul.

It’s even proposing trails along rivers.

A new concept, called “water trails,” envisions boaters riding from one park to another along designated waterways. The council is proposing water trails on the Rum River near Anoka, and along Minnehaha Creek in the west-metro area.


The trails are among the 26 proposals included in a new amendment to the the Met Council’s 2040 Park Policy Plan. There are no cost estimates for the proposals.

According to Met Council spokeswoman Bonnie Kollodge, the proposals were initiated by cities, counties and park systems in the area.

The Met Council decides which have “regional significance,” said Kollodge, and then plans and pays for them. When completed, the projects will be owned and operated by the local units of government.

In most cases, the precise route of the new trails has not been identified. The Met Council sets up corridors between two end-points, and the new trails will run somewhere in those areas.

The St. Paul-Lake Elmo link would run from Lake Phalen east through Maplewood and Oakdale. It would connect with the trails of the 2,200-acre Lake Elmo Park Reserve.

Kollodge said much of that trail would follow rail lines.

A walker and his dog use the Big Bluestem Trail at Lake Elmo Park Reserve. (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)


The Met Council also is planning a trail along Ayd Mill Road in St. Paul.

The Midtown Greenway Extension would connect the Greenway in Minneapolis with trails in the Mississippi Gorge Regional Park in St. Paul, also known as the Samuel Morgan Regional Trail.

It would run parallel to Interstate 94, and turn southeast along Ayd Mill Road. Then it would follow a Canadian Pacific Rail line east toward the Mississippi River.

Kollodge said most projects will take more than five years to complete, even decades.


The water trails would be located:

  • On the Rum River, linking two Anoka County parks with a Met Council regional park. It would start at the Rum River North County Park in St. Francis, run 10 miles to the Rum River Center Regional Park in Ramsey, then another 10 miles to the Rum River South County Park in Anoka.
  • Along Minnehaha Creek. This trail would follow the creek from Lake Minnetonka east toward Minneapolis. It would connect parks and undeveloped areas — similar to the green areas along the creek in Minneapolis.

Of the 26 projects listed, most are adjustments to existing parks and trails. These include expansions of Battle Creek and Pine Point regional parks.

The Met Council is seeking public reaction to the plans.

On 4 p.m. Oct. 19, the Met Council will sponsor an online public hearing. To see it or for more information, visit

To comment by mail, send letters to Metropolitan Council Public Information, 390 Robert St., St. Paul, MN 55101. Emails can be sent to, and the Public Information Line is 651-602-1500.

The deadline for comments is 5 p.m. Oct. 30.

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