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It's time to walk and roll in Crookston

CROOKSTON — As many as 100 people are expected to gather, walk and roll Thursday to celebrate the completion of the Fairfax Trail, the final leg of a 3.3-mile bike, skate and pedestrian path that connects the downtown with several neighborhoods and the Veterans Military Memorial Park on the city's eastern edge.

The event is set for 4:30 p.m. at the memorial site, which is at the tip of the triangular trail that scoots through downtown and runs parallel along Roberts Street and Fairfax Avenue. The entire trail is known as the Veterans Military Memorial Loop.

"What we're doing is creating a better Crookston for the future, one that's going to be more attractive to a wider group of people," said Tim Denney, a member of Bike Crookston, an organization of volunteers dedicated to making the city more "walkable, bike-able and rollable."

He said the trail, which closely matches a 5K in distance, will be both a health benefit to residents and an economic boost for the city.

"Research tells us when you have established, dedicated walk and bike pathways that connect important places in the community, like downtown and neighborhoods, the more people get out, get exercise and use it," Denney said. "It's good for health and well-being. And it's also good economically."

Denney said the trail also creates transportation equity by connecting people who do not drive to different parts of town.

"People can get to the Industrial Park if they work out there. They can go downtown and go shopping. And there are additional bike paths that will take them out to the north part of town, where there's the university, Wal-Mart and a lot of eateries," he said. "It creates an opportunity for people who do not drive to have access to the whole city."

Denney said the idea for the loop first was suggested by City Administrator Shannon Stassen, who proposed extending an existing bike path along Roberts Street by incorporating a trackless railroad right of way along Fairfax Avenue.

The project was made possible with a grant and through partnership with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.