FERGUS FALLS -- Otter Tail County board members, on July 30, approved the purchase of 71.8 acres of land north of the current Phelps Mill Park in Underwood. This will result in more than doubling the park from its current 51.2 acres.

A master plan will be developed by a project steering committee to explore recreational options for the expansion area. The committee also will look at current park amenities in order to blend it all into one cohesive unit.

Serving on the steering committee will be county commissioners Betty Murphy of Maine Township and Lee Rogness of Fergus Falls along with County Historical Society Executive Director Chris Schuelke and others.

“We’ll have extensive input from residents throughout Otter Tail County,” says County Board Chairman Doug Huebsch of Perham.

The county will investigate wetland restoration on the new addition, for future wetland credit sales that would generate income.

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Phelps Mill Park came into being in 1965 when Otter Tail County purchased the mill and surrounding land as a recreational site.

Located in Maine Township, the mill was constructed in 1889. It was designed to produce 60 to 75 barrels of flour per day.

Phelps Mill was very successful until 1900, but after that year business gradually declined. The mill was sold in 1919.

By the 1930s the railway was in place and it became easier for county farmers to ship their grain to Minneapolis. Phelps Mill went out of business in 1939.

Phelps Mill Park is used each summer for the two-day arts and crafts festival. The park also is promoted for attracting visitors to the historical flour mill building.

People enjoy walking across the historic pedestrian bridge. Others fish along the banks of the Otter Tail River and families have picnics at the park.

There is a play area for children and there are modern restrooms and spacious parking facilities. Running water and electricity is available.

Two picnic shelters can be reserved, free of charge, for weddings, family reunions, picnics and other functions.

The Otter Tail County offices can be reached by calling 218-998-8000.