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National trail alliance expands in region

Submitted graphic

GRANITE FALLS — The nationwide Yellowstone Trail will be spotlighted more often next year in several area counties.

The regional Yellowstone Trail Alliance of Western Minnesota is expanding its promotional efforts to include the portion of the trail route between Granite Falls and Ortonville. Regional activities are tied in with nationwide progress toward a designated 3,600-mile route that runs from coast to coast.

The Yellow Medicine County Board committed $500 to trail promotion last month. The Chippewa County Board previously approved the same amount.

Mary Gillespie of Granite Falls, who is part of regional Yellowstone Trail development efforts, said the concept has grown strictly through volunteer participation. Informational materials note that there’s been no government funding spent on the project as of 2019.

“It’s come together with help from local people all along the trail route,” Gillespie said. “Minnesota is an important part of it. We’re involved locally because Granite Falls is near the geographic center.”

The entire trail runs from Plymouth Rock near Boston in Massachusetts to Puget Sound in Washington State. It’s designed as a coast to coast route linking most of the northern United States.

The path includes U.S. Highway 212 running through Granite Falls and Montevideo. At that point, it veers north to Ortonville on Minnesota Highway 7.

“In the past two years our regional work stopped at Granite Falls,” Gillespie said. “Now is the right time to expand it west to the South Dakota border.”

She said the Yellowstone Trail has potential to become a 21st century version of Route 66 or the Appalachian Trail. Those two landmarks reflect modern public mobility first seen in the mid 20th century.

Route 66 runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, and at its peak popularity featured a wide assortment of roadside tourist attractions surrounded by Great Plains or desert landscapes.

The Appalachian Trail runs from Springer Mountain in northern Georgia to Mount Katahdin, the highest peak in Maine. The mostly mountainous route includes peaks such as Virginia’s highest point at Mount Rogers. It’s remained widely popular among hikers and backpackers, including some who walk the entire trail either in a single long hike or in short stages.

“The Yellowstone Trail is starting to see the same kind of appeal among people who want to see a large part of the United States,” Gillespie said. “A lot of historians are taking an interest in it. People are touring it in classic old cars.”

Yellow Medicine County Commissioner John Berends said Yellowstone Trail planning ties in well with several other kinds of regional tourism promotion.

Examples include the Minnesota River scenic by-way designation, Andrew Volstead Prohibition historical commemoration in Granite Falls, and an annual Upper Minnesota River Meander self-guided arts tour held every fall.

Berends said the regional Yellowstone Trail campaign brings in a new group of west central Minnesota counties. It also opens the door to involvement from the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission; which serves the counties of Yellow Medicine, Lac qui Parle, Chippewa, Swift and Big Stone.

“They’re a small volunteer group that’s done a lot in the last few years, both regionally and nationwide,” Berends said. “It’s good that they want to expand.”

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