By Louis Hoglund

What better way to introduce Pelican Rapids as the “Gateway” to the new Heart of the Lakes recreational trail: A hardy breakfast and a healthy pedal. 

“I love biking, and I love pancakes,” said Lindsay Johnson, who hit the trail Sept. 9 with her two children after a pancake feed, served by Women United of Otter Tail County.

“Pelican Pete’s Pancake Pedal” not only celebrated the trail, but also supported literacy. Proceeds from the event benefit young readers through the Otter Tail “Imagination Library” program. 

Health, fitness, and literacy were combined motivations to showcase the new trail. The breakfast was served at Faith Lutheran Church, the one with the clocktower that rises about the beginning of the trail—which stretches from Pelican to Maplewood and on to Perham. 

A 2002 Pelican graduate, Johnson is a weekend visitor to the Pelican lakes area. The trail is yet another recreational asset to the area, said Johnson—noting that her children’s grandparents, Steve and Vickie Johnson, live right by the trail near Lake Lida.  

Johnson noted that the new trail building, under construction by the Pelican school football field, will further cement Pelican’s position as trail “gateway.”

Pelican Rapids volleyball youth were important volunteers Sept. 9, serving breakfast at the “Pancake Pedal” event.
Pictured with “Women United” volunteer Deb Sjostrom, Pelican student volleyball players Sela Halbakken, Lyla Seifert, and McKenna Erickson. The Pelican volleyball teams have a unique volunteer-community service program, and have been visible at numerous civic events.

“There’s plenty of parking by the football field; cyclists will have a place to start and stop—and there are parks right in the community,” said Johnson, noting the new playground equipment at the elementary school—right by the trailhead. 

“I love to bike, land I love the United Way,” said Jean Bowman, Fergus Falls, who chose to ride first and eat afterward. 

“I earned every bite of those pancakes and sausages at the Women United breakfast after my ride,” said Bowman. “I also appreciate the United Way’s focus on literacy and their work in Otter Tail County. “

Leading the project was Women United, with its mission to positively impact the lives of children through early childhood literacy. One of the initiatives is the Dolly Parton Foundation’s Imagination Library. WU sponsors 500 children throughout Otter Tail County to receive an age-appropriate book each month from birth to age 5. Women United is under the umbrella of United Way of Otter Tail and Wadena Counties (

‘Safe Routes’ grants Pelican schools $50,000 for bicycle fleet

Nineteen communities around Minnesota will benefit from $600,000 from this year’s planning and programming grants that support the Safe Routes to School program, the Minnesota Department of Transportation announced.

Pelican Rapids School District was awarded $49,980 to purchase and implement a bike fleet program to be used to promote physical activity and bike safety in their curriculum and extracurricular programs. Principal Laura Januszewski says, “We’re excited to provide our students with increased movement opportunities through use of this 40-bike fleet in a rural community. All students will have equal access to learn bike riding and safety skills.”

Safe Routes to School is an international program to improve safety and reduce traffic congestion around schools. It does this by making it safer and easier for students to walk and bicycle to school, with the added benefit of increasing physical activity and student health. “Children have more opportunities to walk, bike, and roll to schools because of the Safe Routes to School program,” said Nancy Daubenberger, MnDOT commissioner. “Thanks to this funding, students   can learn how to do these lifelong, foundational activities in a safer setting.”

Locally, PartnerSHIP4Health and West Central Initiative (WCI)helped write the bike fleet grant and will support the implementation of use of the bike fleet. WCI is presenting the Pelican Routes to School plan at the September 20 school board meeting.