Clay County Heartland Trail Extension

Project Description

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. 

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


Frequently Asked Questions

Northwest Minnesota does not have a nearby state trail, as the rest of the state does. Today residents of Clay County are missing out on the benefits and quality of life that such a trail would have to offer.

This trail would provide a designated route for those seeking a variety of recreational opportunities in Clay County. The trail would link cities, towns, and parks along the route and provide residents of Clay County with a safe and scenic recreational corridor.

No. No land will be condemned for the purposes of this trail. Any land needed for the construction of this trail will be purchased or an easement will be set up on a voluntarily basis by the adjacent landowners.

This trail will be designed for all types of users. Runners, walkers, bicyclists, in‐line skaters, etc. In the winter cross country skiers and snowmobiles will be allowed to use the trail. If sufficient corridor width is available a separate treadway may be made available for horseback riding. This treadway may also be the best option for snowmobiles and/or cross country skiers. ATVs will not be allowed on the trail.

It is expected that users will come from all parts of Clay County and beyond. With the trail connecting to the Fargo‐Moorhead area, many residents from Fargo‐Moorhead are expected to use the trail. A mix of users ranging from families to long‐distance bicyclists are expected to enjoy this amenity.

At this stage it is hard to say exactly when the entire Clay County Heartland Trail will be built. Smaller segments of the trail may be built through towns such as Hawley and Glyndon with the larger segments being built further in the future. This is all contingent on funding for the trail.

With nearly 600 miles of state trails in Minnesota, many of the trails travel through lands adjacent to private properties. There have been little to no complaints from such landowners about the users of the trails. Many users of these trails are using the trails to enjoy the outdoors and as such are responsible stewards of the land and respectful of adjacent properties.

The cost of this trail is still being evaluated. We are working on further studying the trail alignment which will help us determine a better cost estimate. Costs will vary based on terrain, wetlands, and many other factors. In addition to these costs, possible easements and property purchasing could also incur costs to the trail building effort.