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UPDATE: Deerwood man dies in head-on crash with semitrailer

Baxter City Council: Memorywood project pushed back a year

BAXTER—A Memorywood Drive street project is getting more time before residents can expect to see construction work.

Wednesday, the Baxter City Council heard a staff recommendation to move the Memorywood Drive project, calling for a removal, recycling and replacement of the current pavement, planned in 2018 back one year.

Trevor Walter, public works director, said the existing pavement will hold up another year even with the occasional need to patch a pothole. The question for the council members was what they wanted the street project to entail. Should it include 5-foot wide bike lanes on either side of the residential street and changing parking options? Memorywood winds around White Sand Lake, connecting to Highway 210 near city hall with Clearwater Road to the north.

Walter said there are four different spots with stormwater issues. One at Cedar Scenic was addressed. The three others on Memorywood include one north of Travine Way, at the intersection Oak Street and by the lake access at the street's north end. Walter suggested getting a feasibility study to determine what those costs are and how that fits into the city's financial plan. Walters also noted an option may be a separated paved trail on one of the city's well-traveled streets or the on-street bike lanes noted with pavement markings.

Council member Todd Holman said neither a public input meeting nor a neighborhood survey has been conducted to find out which option people would support. If it would fit, Holman was supportive of the safety improvement with the bike lanes but said he wouldn't do the feasibility study on a separated trail without more neighborhood input.

However, Walter and Mayor Darrel Olson noted people will want to know what the proposal would look like. Walter said without something to show people it's hard to get a reaction to the proposal. Olson said they've always said when they can retool a street where feasible they should to make it better but he noted the driveways and garages on some parts of Memorywood leave inches to deal with, not feet.

Walter said the full-depth reclamation on Memorywood is estimated to cost $1 million without considering stormwater or other design improvements.

Council member Quinn Nystrom said her preference is public safety and a separated trail although she understood there are areas where there isn't much room on small lots along the lake. Nystrom was in favor of the bike lanes but said the city should always look at the option of a separated trail where it was possible. Nystrom said since the street will hold up she was in favor of waiting a year so the city could look at all the options and make the best decision, not only for the residents but the entire city as well.

Memorywood Drive residents can expect to get a letter with the estimated cost and project schedule, which is anticipated to be followed by a public meeting this coming winter.

Holman also noted the potential to leave an opening for a trail connection through the wooded property off Memorywood on public land administered by Crow Wing County. Back in the spring of 2014, the city looked at a trail concept to link Memorywood Drive to Whipple Beach. The parks commission at the time noted even a wood-chip trail would work. In 2014, Holman noted cutting across the county land would make the trip more accessible for people than sending them out to Clearwater Road to get to Whipple Beach and it would also create another walking loop for people who are looking to be active.

Wednesday, Josh Doty, Baxter community development director, said they didn't pursue the idea as it turned out the county wasn't as excited about a trail through the woods where they were active in forest management. Doty said a county staff perspective was more supportive of a trail along the road rather than cutting through the public woodland.

Council member Steve Barrows noted the county has allowed trails for all-terrain vehicles on other county lands it manages, apparently referencing the Mississippi River Northwoods project where the county was firmly behind ATV trails through the woods.

Barrows said he found it sort of conflicting to have county representatives saying they wouldn't endorse this trail on this piece of property.

In other business, Olson made a mayoral proclamation marking Friday as Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Day in the city. The proclamation notes the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball was established many years ago to inspire and educate others while enhancing the health and welfare of Wounded Warrior Amputees. Olson urged all residents to join with him in this salue "as we express our gratitude to those who have served and those who are now serving to protect our nation and our freedoms."