Trails are an integral and popular component of our city and park infrastructure. They are a link to the outdoors and provide recreation, physical fitness and transportation.

The Greater Wahpeton Association started trails in the early 1980s with a small section from the one-way Laura Hughes Lane in Chahinkapa Park west of Gagelin Shelter through the two ponds. They ran out of money and the trail stopped in the middle of the graveled pond trail. A few years later, the Park Board asphalted the trail up to R.J. Hughes Drive.

One of the first park trails was along the golf course from the zoo to Fourth Street. City Engineer Jerry Lein designed the plan that was very detailed with Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations. He teased me for years about that and he had a special name for that trail.

Trails became very personal early in my profession. My nephew – Cody Frankl, a two-year old, walked onto a Wahpeton street and was struck and killed by a car.

On Saturday, Sept. 17, 1988 we hosted a Special Olympics soccer tournament on the Chahinkapa Park football field. It was a work / home balance day, watching Cody and my daughter Kayla while coaching our soccer team and managing the District Tournament.

Special Olympics athletes from Fargo, Grand Forks, Jamestown and Valley City, North Dakota, were thrilled to have the young children at the fields and spoiled them with attention throughout the day. It was one of the most fun days of my young career.

A couple days later, we attended Cody’s funeral at a church. Accidents will happen and it highlighted in a tragic way the value of having safe sidewalks and trails off the streets.

Sidewalks should be included at the beginning of residential development, not after homes are built. When Fourth Street North was rebuilt, a sidewalk was needed. Fred Strege pleaded that the sidewalk be on the east side of Fourth Street where he lived because he did not want to hear his father Willard complain about it going past his house on the west side of Fourth Street. Funny that it eventually went on the west side over Willard’s objections and he continued tormenting Fred!

After the 1997 flood, we worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to include trails on the levees which has worked out splendidly. It was well worth everybody’s time to maximize greenway recreation and have rising overlooks of the Bois de Sioux and Red Rivers.

Whenever there is street reconstruction, we aggressively seek grants for sidewalks or trails. Examples include 16th Avenue North, 11th Street North and Sixth Street South. There is much value in connecting trails whenever possible. People often walk to Walmart to shop.

Rita Terfehr, an aunt in splendid health, loves the new Rosewood Addition trail built this summer and we have visited while gardening along the 11th Street North trail. She is a fantastic senior role model who walks and bicycles regularly. Great job!

My favorite running trail is the eight-mile loop that starts at First Street, follows the Red River through Chahinkapa Park and the golf course, goes on Kidder Recreation Area roads, follows 16th Avenue and 11th Street North, leads to Sixth Street South, parallels the Airport Park and the follows the Bois de Sioux River home. A scenic way to put on a few miles!

There remain a few city connections that would improve the trails, along with curb cuts to make them pedestrian-friendly and safer routes to schools. You learn by pushing a wheelchair.

Our vision is to continue trails, including leading to Breckenridge on the north side of town, along the north side of Highway 210, alongside highways on the southwest side of Wahpeton, new residential areas on the west side of town, wooded areas along the south-side Bois de Sioux River, and ……… OK to dream!

Trails make sense to create attractive people-friendly downtowns. We are hoping to add public art along trails throughout the Twin Towns. Roger Jensen, 78 years young, will see to it!

The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the importance of outdoor recreation and it is thrilling to see the rich diversity of people enjoying free leisure and getting healthy on the trails. Some run solo for stress relief and others benefit socially with quality friend or family time.

Native Americans hunted animals by following their trails through forests and prairie. These paths became trade routes and transportation corridors. They knew what we are finding out – trails are a really good thing!

Wayne Beyer is Wahpeton Parks and Recreation Director

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