The Cities of Hunter and Arthur Park Districts formed the Hunter/Arthur JPA Park Board in 2013 upon the decision of BNSF Railway to abandon their railway corridor between Hunter and Arthur. The JPA pursued the acquisition of this corridor through the Rails to Trails program and successfully acquired the corridor in 2013. The objective of this acquisition was to build a multi-use, non-motorized path for pedestrians, bicyclists, and equestrians named “Northern Cass Pass.” The path runs parallel of North Dakota State Highway 18 from the south edge of Arthur, north to the City of Hunter, with the project ending adjacent to the Hunter elevator at the Elm River Bridge.
The project consisted of converting the existing ballast into a hard surface, retrofitting three existing railroad timber bridges to make them safe for pedestrian traffic, constructing three trailheads, creating a corridor-long arboretum with native North Dakota tree plantings, and adding pedestrian friendly appurtenances. To achieve the desired design outcome, a preliminary survey was required. Horizontal and vertical control points were established to reference the local coordinate systems. Topographic survey, including public and private utilities and boundary determinations, were completed as well as reductions of field locations in CAD and delivery of an existing conditions basemap that proved crucial to the design of the project.
The construction of the sustainable trail provides recreational opportunities for locals as well as visitors to the area, protection of existing wildlife habitats and natural resources, access to private and public lands for sportsmen, improvement of water quality, soil conditions, plant diversity and animal systems, and finally conserving the natural areas by protecting the established former Railway Right of Way. The addition of the arboretum along the corridor enhances the wildlife features, enriches the existing water quality benefits created by existing vegetation, provides additional wind erosion benefits for the adjacent agricultural lands, and provides educational opportunities for all users of the trail.
In the end, the six-mile project conserved the natural recreation and environmental corridor that had been established over the past 100 years. The Northern Cass Pass provides safe and friendly non-motorized travel between the two communities.