Photo by Tom Hintgen
The Heart of the Lakes recreational trail southeast of Pelican Rapids will be extended along Highway 3 in 2024, near Maplewood State Park.

By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

What was once referred to as the Pelican Rapids to Perham Recreational Trail is now the Heart of the Lakes Regional Trail.

On Oct. 10 the county board of commissioners accepted an agreement with Fargo-based Houston Engineering for design services pertaining to the Glacial Edge Trail-Maplewood State Park segment. This trail segment will run along the east side of Highway 3 within Maplewood State Park. 

“We will start with a connection to the Heart of the Lakes Trail at Isle View Drive and run south for 2.3 miles to the intersection of Highways 3 and 24,” says County Parks and Trails Director Kevin Fellbaum.

Otter Tail County has received Governors Bonding dollars for this project that will be used to cover design and construction costs at a 1 for 1 match for up to $939,000.

  More construction will hopefully take place in Maplewood State Park the spring or summer of 2024 following 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. 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 at, we have had a great working relationship with our partners and will continue to do so,” Fellbaum emphasized.

Much of the funding needed for 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 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.