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Ottertail and MnDOT team up for beautification project

Volunteers helped plant 53 trees along Highways 78 and 108 in Ottertail on Saturday as part of the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s roadside landscaping partnership. Elizabeth Huwe/FOCUS

Shovels cut through sod and dirt, bags of mulch were dumped and spread and the weather cooperated while volunteers hit the streets in Ottertail on May 17.

Saturday’s work was the result of more than six months of planning between Ottertail and the Minnesota Department of Transportation, as part of the department’s roadside landscaping partnership.

Todd Carroll, MnDOT’s partnership coordinator, has helped with the planning process and was on hand to supervise and advise volunteers.

Carroll said in order for projects to be eligible for the partnership, they must take place along state right-of-ways rather than county or local roads. Ottertail fit perfectly with the program.

Essentially, the program ensures communities can afford trees and landscaping materials while saving the MnDOT from paying from labor or future maintenance costs.

More than 50 trees were planted between the paved bike path and ditches of State Highways 108 and 78 in Ottertail. More than 530 bags of compost and 265 bags of mulch were used, ringing up a price tag of about $10,000. That amount will be covered by MnDOT.

Since the roadside landscaping partnership began in the early 1990s, more than $7 million has been directed to beautification projects in communities around the state. Other nearby towns that have participated in the partnership include New York Mills, Bluffton, Wadena and Detroit Lakes.

The city was responsible for providing workers or volunteers for the planting. Care for the Black Hills spruce, maple, hackberry, oak and other ornamental varieties of trees will also be coordinated by the city.

Members of the Ottertail chapters of Lions, Rod and Gun Club, Business and Community Association and local Girl Scouts gave their time and hard work planting trees. They met bright and early at 7:30 a.m. for breakfast and a training session before going out to get down in the dirt.

The Ottertail Rod and Gun Club, Geo Direct Supply and All Seasons Heating and Air Conditioning supplied equipment used during the day.

Carroll said incremental plans, such as the one Ottertail has chosen, can be much easier to get started and keep the community involved. He said the step-by-step approach allows for participation to grow as the idea catches on. It also means less work at once.

If all goes according to plan, planting in future years will extend toward The Otter Supper Club and Ottertail Home Center along the highway.