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Mpls. Park Board, Graco At Odds Over Trail Expansion

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board approved a resolution Wednesday night to help settle a land dispute that is holding up plans to expand the trail system along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.

The decision means the conflict, which centers around a stretch of land on the east bank of the river, will likely end up in the hands of a judge.

The area is between Sheridan Park and Boom Island Park. The property is owned by Graco, a northeast Minneapolis manufacturing company.

The park board has to acquire an easement or purchase the land In order to move forward with plans to extend the recreational trail.

So far, they haven't been able to reach an agreement with Graco.

There is a sense of urgency tied to this dispute. The park board needs to either buy the land or get permission to use it. Otherwise, it will lose a $1 million federal grant for the trail project -- and the deadline is May 31.

The ground is covered with snow and ice now, but you can still see just how close this strip of land is to the Mississippi River.

"We are the biggest supporter of having that trail," Graco spokesperson Bryce Hallowell said. "All we're asking is that in turn for giving the park board the three acres of land it needs for the trail system, that there's a piece of property adjacent to our current facility that is about two acres. If we could acquire that at fair market value, then we could put in a facility down the road for something like a corporate headquarters right here in northeast Minneapolis."

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Superintendent Jayne Miller says these are two separate issues: selling park land that they own to Graco, and acquiring the easement to expand the trail.

She also says Graco already agreed to give the park board the use of the land -- 15 years ago.

"Now they want more in order to give us the easement. They already agreed to give us the easement in 2000 in order to do their expansion in 2000. Now they're saying, 'Oh, well that's not good enough. Now we want this, too,'" Miller said.

She says the park board has the authority to condemn the land and then move forward with its plan, which is a last resort.

"They're using our desire and need to get this easement as leverage to try to get us to give them additional property," Miller said.

Hallowell says Graco has an easy and cost-effective solution.

"We give them the land they want and in turn we get this small parcel next to our facility. That's the win-win for everybody," Hallowell said.

Members of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board are considering a resolution to put this dispute in the hands of a judge who will then decide whether the trail expansion can proceed.

The stretch of land is just three-quarters-of-a mile long, and the long-term goal is to create a pedestrian and bike trail along the entire east side of the Mississippi River.

Right now it's not connected, and it's more difficult to use compared to the west side, which is continuous.

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