By Tom Hintgen
Otter Tail County Correspondent

The Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners came to an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for steps closer to the completion of a 4.2-mile trail segment through Maplewood State Park. 

This will be part of the 32-mile regional trail from Pelican Rapids to Perham.

The agreement is tied to the purchase of state Wetland Banking Credits. Those credits are used to mitigate authorized wetland impacts.

“The wetland credit agreement that was approved is part of the standard procedure with any project where there will be impacts to natural resources in order to obtain a permit,” says county Parks and Trails Director Kevin Fellbaum.

Construction will hopefully take place in Maplewood State Park in the spring or summer of 2024, following the completion of the final design of the trail corridor through the state park.

Also needed, says Fellbaum, are obtaining grant funding for construction and receiving final permitting agreements between Otter Tail County and the DNR.

What was once referred to as the Pelican Rapids to Perham Recreational Trail is now the Heart of the Lakes Regional Trail. There are plans in place in the coming years for the addition of connecting spur trail segments from the main trail to the communities of Dent and Vergas.

Fellbaum said that four of the five major trail segments of the regional trail are built: the Pelican Rapids segment, Silent Lake segment, McDonald Lake segment, and Perham segment.

“Although it has been a long journey to get to where we are currently, we have had a great working relationship with our partners and will continue to do so,” Fellbaum emphasized.

Much of the funding needed for the construction of the 10-foot-wide trail came from the state of Minnesota through allocated grants from LCCMR (Legislative-Citizen

Commission on Minnesota Resources) and GMRPTC (Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission).

Other grants come from ENRTF (Environmental and Natural Resource Trust Fund) and LPTF (Legacy Parks and Trails Fund).

Otter Tail County governmental employees, in previous months, were busy with easements, right-of-way talks, environmental meetings, and other hurdles that needed to be met before the Heart of the Lakes Regional Trail could become a reality.

Public input meetings were also held. The county board, which experienced some opposition to the trail, had support for the trail from county residents, the cities of Pelican Rapids and Perham, as well as organizations such as West Central Initiative and PartnerSHIP4Health.