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Walk, hike and bike for health in Two Harbors

Former U.S. Congressman Jim Oberstar is joined by local officials at the ribbon cutting for the new walking and biking trail near Shopko in Two Harbors. Oberstar wrote the legislation to secure a large portion of the funding for the trail. Tammy Francois

Former U.S Congressman Jim Oberstar was in Two Harbors Tuesday for the ribbon cutting for a new bike and walking trail that is part of the Safe Routes to School initiative. The purpose of the trail is to encourage children to become more active by walking or pedaling to and from school, and also for the wider community to exercise. This leg of the trail is part of a long-range project that will eventually connect with the Gitchee-Gami State Trail.

Also speaking at the ribbon cutting was Two Harbors Mayor Randy Bolen, who drafted a resolution to be presented to the Two Harbors City Council next week. If approved, a portion of the new trail would be called the James Oberstar Bike and Walking Trail.

Among officials and community members present were Connie and Bob Barnabee, who traveled from Little Marais to be at the ceremony.

"We owe [Oberstar] so much; the whole country does," Connie Barnabee said.

The legislation written and introduced by Oberstar has resulted in trail systems in 11,000 school districts across the United States that are utilized by 11 million students, Oberstar said.

"There is nothing so rewarding in public service as working with people in communities to get things done. This is an investment in the future," he said.

Oberstar said he was prompted to take action and write the legislation due in part to a report from the Centers of Disease Control that showed obesity rates rising among Americans and a finding that only 1 percent of students walk or ride bicycles to school.

"This is an example of what can be done with proper help and legislation," Lake County engineer Al Goodman said.

In Minneapolis, at least 90,000 vehicles have been reported to be off the roads on a regular basis due to the increased utilization of public trails there.

"These projects are reclaiming public space," Oberstar said, "we're charting a path future generations to live a healthy life."

According to state Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, trail systems, such as the one in Two Harbors, are becoming part of the long-range plans for many communities.

"This is a perfect opportunity to move forward in good health. Let's move forward together," Murphy said.

Watch the News-Chronicle for upcoming events intended to encourage use of the trails by school children.