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Perham backs ‘master plan’ for possible new trail

Perham city councilors have gotten behind a plan to create a recreational trail from Perham to Pelican Rapids, unanimously agreeing at a meeting last week to contribute $13,000 toward the project’s initial planning phase.

The money will help pay for a study and proposed master plan for the trail, to be conducted and completed by professional consultants, with input from the public along the way.

The total cost of getting the master plan done will be about $67,000; that includes all the necessary research, engineering elements and a public input process. According to discussion at the meeting, Otter Tail County will picking up most of that tab, while Pelican Rapids and other stakeholders will also be chipping in.

When complete, the master plan is expected to lay out the best possible route for the trail, as well as all potential costs, challenges, and funding sources for the project.

Having this kind of professional and well-thought-out plan for the trail should give it a better chance of getting some state funding in the future, explained City Manager Kelcey Klemm, “showing legislators that we’ve done our due diligence.”

The master plan is expected to take six months to a year to complete. The project as a whole is likely to take much longer to become a reality, if it does at all. But councilors were optimistic about the trail’s chances of getting state funding, and said the project was worth backing.

“I realize it’s probably quite a ways in the future, but I think it would be a really big asset to this area to have that (trail),” said councilor James Johnson. “It would be a fantastic entity for our community, if it did happen.”

Economic Development Authority Director Chuck Johnson said Perham is not alone in that sentiment. The county has “really gotten behind this,” he said, and there’s also a lot of excitement from Pelican Rapids and PartnerSHIP 4 Health, which promotes avenues for healthy lifestyles.

Ideally, the trail route will connect Perham and Pelican Rapids, traveling through Maplewood State Park along the way and eventually meeting up with other trails that are part of Minnesota’s state trail system.

If it comes to fruition, this trail would be the first of its kind in Otter Tail County.

An application for state bonding money for the project was already submitted in June, but EDA Director Johnson has said that application is merely a rough draft that serves as a “holding request” for funding. When complete, the master plan for the trail will be submitted as a part of the final application.

Perham’s $13,000 share of the master plan’s cost is a non-budgeted expense, said Klemm, and the funds will likely come out of the municipal liquor store fund.

Marie Johnson
Marie Johnson (formerly Nitke) came to the Perham Focus after several years as the Education and Arts & Entertainment Editor at the Herald-Review of Grand Rapids, Minn. She lives in rural Ottertail with her husband, Dan, and their spunky yellow lab, Louisa.
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