In 1976 the Heartland Trail from Park Rapids, MN to Walker, MN was constructed. In 2006 the Minnesota legislature authorized the extension of the Heartland Trail from Park Rapids to Moorhead. As a result of the 2006 authorization, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) produced the Heartland State Trail Extension Park Rapids to Moorhead Master Plan which was completed in 2011. The Master Plan was required before any design or construction could be considered. The Master Plan looks into issues, needs, opportunities, and more along the proposed trail corridor. The Master Plan does not determine an exact alignment but rather provides a general proposed corridor.
In 2014 Metro COG helped initiate the Clay County Heartland Trail Task Force to help guide the planning of the Heartland Trail extension through Clay County. Since its inception, the Task Force has met regularly to discuss trail funding, issues, needs, and trail alignment options. The Task Force came up with three trail alignments which were brought to the public in January 2015. Two public involvement meetings were held in January 2015 and provided the public with an opportunity to learn about the project and provide feedback on the trail and trail alignments. The public was also given an opportunity to propose other alignment alternatives. After gathering the results of the public meetings, Alternative 2 was the most popular of the three alternatives. Several members of the public also provided trail alignment alternatives which were unique to the three alternatives developed by the Task Force. All alternatives developed and desired by the public have been considered in the development of this RFP.
It has been the consensus of the Clay County Heartland Trail Task Force to pursue the planning of the Clay County Heartland Trail in the following priorities:
• Priority 1 – Buffalo River State Park to Hawley
• Priority 2 – Moorhead to Buffalo River State Park
• Priority 3 – Hawley to Becker County