Shared-use building, parking lot could do double duty as warming house, trail entrance

By Nicole WK

An interesting proposal was presented to the Pelican Rapids School Board Sept. 21. 

A county-school partnertnership was proposed by Otter Tail County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, who outlined a plan for the county to create a “trailhead” to the Heart of Lakes Trail that enters Pelican Rapids on the south side of town.

Trail access parking an issue

Since the trail has been finished – and maybe even before that- folks have been using the parking lots at Larry’s Super Market and Dairy Queen to park their cars while they venture out on the trail. Johnson and school superintendent Brian Korf discussed the possibility of using a portion of the new Chauncey Martin parking lot, but then the idea expanded.

The district already has plans to expand and improve Chauncey Martin Field with more bathrooms and concessions and has been considering building a warming house with restrooms for the proposed new icerink location by the Chauncey complex. 

Who will pay for a new trailhead?

Board member Anne Peterson asked about funding and grant money available, inquiring as to who would pay for what.

According to Johnson, there was money set aside for the construction of a trailhead that was originally intended to be installed south of LREC, but that idea was struck down as it is preferred that trail-goers venture further into town to potentially patronize Pelican businesses. Unfortunately, that has left the Pelican end of the trail without a trailhead and the associated amenities. 

There is also grant money available from MnDOT that could potentially cover the construction and installation of things like signage, or widening that part of the trail, but the county will need to apply by the deadline at the end of October. The school district would be responsible for the construction of any buildings and associated amenities. 

Johnson also mentioned that grant applications are generally more successful when a letter of support is included from partners like a school district and/or a city. 

County already seeking building concepts

Otter Tail County has taken the initiative to reach out to architects to get a concept for a building. Board member Brittany Dokken inquired about how involved Pelican school facilities superintendent Trevor Steeves would be in the process and was assured by Johnson that his ideas were also shared with the architectural firm.

Board Chair Jon Karger commented that “a trailhead will happen, and a new building will happen – so why not together?” but there wasn’t much discussion about the proposal, with most of the board nodding along to the points being made throughout the presentation.

The school board voted unanimously to approve the proposal to work with the county to develop a plan for a shared-use building and parking lot at Chauncey Martin Field with a new trailhead for the Heart of Lakes Trail.