Four segment development plan outlined for trail
(From Otter Tail County Information Office)
The Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners, staff and consultants from SRF Consulting recently held an open house informational meeting to provide updates on the Pelican Rapids to Perham Trail.
According to Public Works Director, Rick West, “There has been considerable trail momentum in recent months. It is important that we keep residents, visitors and business owners apprised of those developments. This won’t be the last meeting, however. There will be considerable community outreach and opportunities for feedback throughout the planning and construction phases.”
The Perham to Pelican Rapids Regional Trail is a 10-foot wide, 32-mile long, multi-use recreational trail connecting the communities of Perham and Pelican Rapids via Maplewood State Park.
The trail is comprised of four segments: West, Silent Lake, McDonald, and East. Otter Tail County, the Cities of Perham and Pelican Rapids, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, West Central Initiative and PartnerSHIP4Health worked together to develop the Perham to Pelican Rapids Regional Trail Master Plan which as approved in 2014.
The master planning process evoked rousing support for the trail among residents and businesses, and unanimous support from the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners and both City Councils.
Earlier this year, the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners approved detailed planning and engineering for the McDonald and Silent Lake segments of the Perham to Pelican Rapids Regional Trail. The engineering is underway and will take approximately 12-15 months. According to Board Chairman, Doug Huebsch, “Our intent is to have those sections shovel ready by August 2020. Thanks to Representative Nornes and Senator Ingebrigtsen, we feel good about chances at the legislature next session. They’ve been tremendous champions for this project.”
It was announced last year that the East segment of the trail will begin construction this summer in conjunction with the rebuild of County Highway 34 from Perham to County Highway 35.
“After five years of planning, it is exciting to see this project come to fruition,” said Jonathan Smith, Perham City Administrator.
Pelican-Maplewood segment may be finished in 2023
Otter Tail County is currently pursuing LCCMR funding for the West segment which stretches from Pelican Rapids to the west border of Maplewood State Park.
“If successful, planning will begin next summer, and construction would be complete by 2023,” noted County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, who represents the Pelican-Maplewood area.
Battle Lake reaps benefits from Glendalough trail
According to Mayor Gene Kelm, the City of Battle Lake is the perfect example of the health, community and economic benefits of recreational trails. In 2014, the Glendalough Trail opened, connecting the City of Battle Lake to Glendalough State Park. The trail quickly became ingrained into the area’s identity.
“The trail has brought considerable economic infusion to Battle Lake and the region. Our downtown has become a bustling scene of restaurants, shops, arts and business services,” said Kelm. Downtown Battle Lake is not the only beneficiary of the trail’s boom.
Glendalough State Park is seeing a lot more action too. Prior to the Glendalough Trail, the state park was struggling to attract users. Now, Glendalough is experiencing its highest visitation ever.
Trail expected to boost sales tax revenues
In addition to considerable health and community benefits, trails also offer opportunities for economic growth and development.
The leisure and hospitality industry accounts for 18% of Minnesota’s state sales tax revenues. According to the most recent economic impact study prepared for Explore MN Tourism and the University of Minnesota Tourism Center, the leisure and hospitality industry contributes approximately $100 million to the Otter Tail County economy annually.
Trails aren’t just important amenities for visitors, however. According to Ben Winchester, a rural community development expert at the University of Minnesota, outdoor recreational activities are critically important for attracting new families to live and work in rural communities.
“Given the significant workforce needs in Otter Tail County, amenities like trails are only becoming more important,” according to Dave Schornack, Director of Business Development and Sales at Arvig and Chair of the Otter Tail County Community Development Agency. “We have the jobs. Now we need every competitive advantage that we can find in order to recruit the workers – trails included.”