Trail meetings give officials a chance to listen and learnPublished 11:16am Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Winter may not seem like the most likely time for people to be thinking about bike trails. But officials from Pelican Rapids and Perham, as well as from Otter Tail County in general, are hoping some will still have biking on the brain.
Two public meetings are set for next week where officials involved in a Perham-to-Pelican Rapids trail project will discuss the project with residents of both cities.
The meeting in Pelican Rapids is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Monday at the Lake Region Electric Cooperative.
Pelican Rapids City Administrator Don Solga, who will be at the meeting, said the plan at this early stage of the project is to gather as much information as possible.
“It’s really just to listen and to see how people feel about the project,” he said.
Discussions for the trail project began this summer. Otter Tail County hired SRF Consulting to work up potential trail routes, which will be presented as options during Monday’s meeting.
All proposed trail routes at this point run through Maplewood State Park.
A SRF representative will do most of the presentation, while Solga, County Public Works Director Rick West and County Commissioners Doug Heubsch and Wayne Johnson, along with other officials, will also be on hand to answer questions and gather information.
Huebsch represents Perham, while Johnson represents Pelican Rapids.
After these public meetings, West said SRF Consulting will figure out which trail path will work best for the project. Such a decision could come a few months from now, according to West.
“This is our first public information event,” West said. “I’m hoping we can have 50 people there, but I don’t know that. It is the time to ask the questions, and we certainly won’t have all the answers, but it’s good to know what the questions are.”
Solga also hopes to see a strong turnout at the Pelican Rapids meeting.
Because the project will involve many different groups, Solga expects city council members, economic development workers and others to show up along with city residents.
West believes some people in both cities are aware of the project and some early details, but education is a high priority for the meeting.
Another priority for the meeting, according to both West and Solga, is stressing the long-range aspect of the project.
Completion on the project could take several years, West said, and that is assuming all funding comes through in the first place.
“The only way this happens in a year is if we get the state bonding money and all the other funding mechanisms fall into place,” said Solga, who added if funding does not come through in 2014, the county will have to wait for the next bonding session.
Although the project will move along slowly, getting public input throughout the process is an important step, West said.
The residents of both Pelican Rapids and Perham will have a say in the construction of the trail, and that say begins in earnest with these open houses next week.