By Barbie Porter


Heavy machinery and skyscraper-like metal objects have appeared near the intersection of U.S. Highway 10 and Becker County Highway 10. 

Kent Skaar, senior project manager of the division of parks and trails for Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said the equipment and materials are in place to build the Heartland Trail bridge that will provide safe crossing over Becker County Highway 10.

If the weather cooperates and there are no unforeseen issues during the construction, Skaar said the projected completion date of the bridge will be in July.

“Tentatively, the schedule is to place the piers in the last week of June,” he said, adding the cost for the $1.36 million structure was “very competitive” and a “great bid,” well under the initial estimated cost.

The contract for the bridge was awarded to Robert S. Schroeder Construction out of Glenwood, Minn.

The bridge is being made out of weathering steel. The material is designed to eliminate the need for painting and take on a rust-like appearance after being exposed to the elements for a duration of time. 

The sides of the bridge along the pedestrian platform will utilize railings or pickets. The railings will extend down to four inches from the bridge platform to provide safety.

The length of the entire bridge will be 360 feet and measures 17 feet from the road to the bottom section of the bridge.

Skaar said the bridge was made to the specs of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, so there should not be any issues with semis, plows or other large vehicles utilizing the county highway.

The trail surface will be concrete and measure 10 feet wide at both approaches. However, the bridge deck will expand to 12 feet to provide an additional buffer for those utilizing the bridge, as well as maintenance vehicles.

In the early phase of the  project both a culvert and bridge were looked at, and a study and discussion determined a bridge would best serve the location. The trail  and bridge are open to pedestrians, and in the winter snowmobiles are allowed to utilize the trail once it is adequately covered with snow.

The Heartland Trail extension was paid for through two bonds totalling $6 million. The project included pinpointing the location of the 10-foot wide bituminous surfaced trail and completing engineering studies before work could begin. During that phase the Acorn Lake section was identified to be costly. A retaining wall had to be built to provide structural integrity of U.S. Highway 10.  

When funding was secured the project was bid and work began. In 2020, paving started and was completed from Acorn Lake to a few miles outside of Detroit Lakes. Winter weather postponed the remainder of the paving job until this spring.

Skaar said paving work that remains to be completed is set to resume in the coming weeks and is set to be completed by the first week of June. 

In the Acorn Lake area, construction required some trees be removed. Skaar said  the trees that were scheduled to be replaced have been. He added the final inspection has yet to be done.

The trail portion going from Acorn Lake to Frazee is the next step to the Heartland Trail extension project. Last year the local trail committee began looking into leading the project from the county level, opposed to having the DNR lead the way. Skaar said the request was granted.  That means the design, construction and project will be done all at the county level.

Skaar said he didn’t know of any drawbacks for the switch in leadership, as both parties would take the same route in planing for the  path, and the project would likely cost the same.

The county’s parks and trails committee was contacted, and it was noted a meeting will be set in the coming weeks. After the meeting, more information on planning for the next Heartland Trail segment will be available.