By Grace Webb
Most Mankatoans know of the Red Jacket Trail—and most of them have probably biked or walked it at some point. But few residents probably realize what a rich history this trail has.
The Red Jacket Trail may be a fixture in southern Minnesota now, but it had its share of controversy when it first began construction in the early ’90s. The city of Mankato decided, in part, to use private lands, and some landowners’ properties were condemned so the land could be used to create the trail. This caused great outcry across the region and resulted in court cases to determine who was in the right. Some of the landowners even took the issue into their own hands and demolished a 90-foot trestle that was to be used as part of the trail. In the end, the landowners were granted settlements, and plans for the trail were allowed to continue. However, this wasn’t the end of the problem.
The Red Jacket Trail, which begins in Mankato and ends in Rapidan, covers 13 miles of open countryside. Part of the trail used to go across the Red Jacket railroad trestle, which is more than 80 feet high and 550 feet wide. The trestle was another historic fixture of Mankato. Constructed in 1911, the Red Jacket trestle was the first of its kind in the county, costing $12,500 to build.
The city wanted to use the trestle’s crossing as part of the trail. City council members believed they would have no problems since the trestle was donated to the city in 1992. However, the plan ran into a snag when it was discovered that the donor did not have legal ownership of the bridge; instead, a landowner strongly against the trail possessed legal rights to the trestle. Once again, negotiations and settlements were discussed, and the trail finally got permission to use the trestle. The trestle crossing continued as part of the Red Jacket Trail until 2010 when the city decided to remove it after floods damaged one of its supports.
The Red Jacket Trail ended up costing around $400,000 to complete. Many of the funds came through grants and private donations. Now, it is a popular route to travel for people who want peace, relaxation, and beautiful scenery.