BAXTER -- It was all smiles and handshakes at a ribbon-cutting event attended by lakes area dignitaries, lawmakers, civil engineers, chamber figures, Baxter city council members and staff, as well as a handful of media workers orbiting around proceedings like satellites.

The pavilion event Wednesday, Aug. 7, at the junction of Cypress Drive and Industrial Park Road celebrated the opening of the Cypress Drive connection -- a significant infrastructure project for the area that’s been in various stages of construction for two years, but the planning and development of which stretches back to 2005.

“It’s been said that it takes a village with some goals,” Mayor Darrel Olson addressed the assembled crowd. “And that was certainly true with this project. It’s been a vision of this council and many councils before us, to see the completion of this corridor.”

While the corridor looks to alleviate traffic pressures across a region of the state that sees enormous surges during the summer tourist season, Olson said, its construction has been largely the work of a small community, aided by a dedicated group of professionals, elected officials and allies across Minnesota.

“With major help, a community of our size has been able to improve traffic flow, improve congestion and safety,” Olson said. “A lot of people have been waiting for this. It’s working, and it will work for many, many years.”

Baxter Mayor Darrel Olson (left) mingles with attendees at a ribbon cutting Wednesday, Aug. 7 to celebrate the opening of the Cypress Drive connection. Gabriel Lagarde / Brainerd Dispatch
Baxter Mayor Darrel Olson (left) mingles with attendees at a ribbon cutting Wednesday, Aug. 7 to celebrate the opening of the Cypress Drive connection. Gabriel Lagarde / Brainerd Dispatch

Olson was joined at the lectern by City Administrator Brad Chapulis, project engineer Scott Hedlund of engineering-architectural firm Short Elliott Hendrickson, state Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, and state Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa. Olson pointed to long-standing work partnerships with SEH, as well as the tireless efforts of state legislators including Ruud and Heintzeman that made the Cypress corridor a reality.

A small crowd of lakes area dignitaries, lawmakers, civil engineers, chamber figures, Baxter city council members and staff, as well as a handful of media workers attend a ribbon-cutting event to celebrate the opening of the Cypress Drive connection on Wednesday, Aug. 7, in south Baxter. The $17 million infrastructure project looks to alleviate traffic pressure on highways 210 and 371. Gabriel Lagarde / Brainerd Dispatch
A small crowd of lakes area dignitaries, lawmakers, civil engineers, chamber figures, Baxter city council members and staff, as well as a handful of media workers attend a ribbon-cutting event to celebrate the opening of the Cypress Drive connection on Wednesday, Aug. 7, in south Baxter. The $17 million infrastructure project looks to alleviate traffic pressure on highways 210 and 371. Gabriel Lagarde / Brainerd Dispatch

“The real challenge was getting it over the tracks,” said Hedlund, who has been involved with Cypress Drive since 2006. “Through persistence, through dedication, through relationships and partnerships with you, we succeeded. It’s an exciting day.”

After the speeches, the gathering moved to the roadway, where Baxter police cruisers temporarily blocked the thoroughfare so Cypress Drive backers could congregate for a ceremonial ribbon cutting to mark the event.

The newly opened road connects Cypress Drive north to Woida Road and then to Wise Road and south to Highland Scenic Drive, also known as County Highway 48. In doing so, the new roadway serves as a parallel corridor to Highway 371, particularly for local traffic versus people passing through the Baxter strip.

It's intended to improve access to the city's industrial park to the south of Highway 210, shorten local trips, increase options for pedestrians and bicycle riders, and give local traffic an alternative to the bustling Highway 371. In addition, speakers hailed the project’s completion as an economic boon for the area.

All in all, it cost over $17 million to build, funds brought together from local, state and federal sources.

State Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, speaks at a ribbon-cutting event Wednesday, Aug. 7, celebrating the opening of the Cypress Drive connection. Gabriel Lagarde / Brainerd Dispatch
State Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, speaks at a ribbon-cutting event Wednesday, Aug. 7, celebrating the opening of the Cypress Drive connection. Gabriel Lagarde / Brainerd Dispatch