Construction for the Lake Links Trail continues after approval of $3.6 million in funds provided by the Minnesota State Legislature in October 2020. With 80 percent of the non-motorized trail surrounding White Bear Lake completed, the nonprofit Lake Links Association turns its attention to completing the around-the-lake trail, and considers broader-ranging goals for the future.
Lake Links Association board member Mary Hoff has lived with her husband and children in the White Bear Lake community for more than 30 years. Like many local families, the Hoffs discovered a great resource in the lake as both a scenic and recreational destination, but the path around it didn’t always feel safe.
“To this day, I still bike around the lake and recognize that making a safer way to travel, it would just mean so much to our community,” Mary Hoff says. The mission of the Lake Links Association is to promote safe routes and active mobility through the communities surrounding White Bear Lake and beyond, but although the association didn’t form until 2017, a plan has been in place for the past two decades.
The Lake Links Trail Network Master Plan was a 2001 regional plan that envisioned a network of non-motorized trails connecting Washington and Ramsey counties. “The circuit around White Bear Lake stands out as the focal point of the entire plan,” explains the association’s Ramsey County co-chair Mike Brooks. “That’s why it became Lake Links Association’s primary objective.”
Beyond this focus on the White Bear Lake area, the master plan also outlines objectives to connect the local community to larger regional trails like the Bruce Vento Regional Trail and Bald Eagle Lake. Brooks says that building these links translates to numerous positives, from providing safer routes for kids walking or biking to school to encouraging commerce downtown and exercise for community members.
Locally, a large portion of the White Bear Lake trails have already been completed thanks in part to funding from the state legislature in 2018. “The next big steps are going to be completing South Shore,” Hoff says. “That will be a separated trail from the road with a buffer zone in between.”
The around-the-lake trail ultimately will connect the communities in White Bear Lake, White Bear Township, Birchwood, Mahtomedi and Dellwood, with different stretches of the trail reflecting the different personalities of each of the five different communities.
“We’re customizing the trails to match the different communities, and as part of that, a big driver for us is to make sure that we have minimal environmental impact,” Hoff explains. “We want to make sure that we respect the nature of the area too; to have an enhancement to the beauty of the area, and not just pavement.”
The South Shore portion of the trail is scheduled to be completed by Ramsey County for 2022. Next, Hoffman says the association will turn its attention to the Northern Mahtomedi and Dellwood stretch off Highway 244 and Highway 96.