HOLT trail through Maplewood draws heated comments

Contributed photo
Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners include: front row: Leland Rogness, Robert Lahman and Dan Bucholz, Back row: Top row: Kurt Mortenson and Wayne Johnson.

By Robert Williams


Parks and Trails Director Kevin Fellbaum received unanimous approval from the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners on a purchase agreement for wetland banking credits for the Maplewood State Park portion of the Heart of the Lakes Trail (HOLT) at the latest commissioners meeting Tuesday, May 9, in Fergus Falls.

Minnesota’s wetland banking program includes both private and state-sponsored wetland banks which have “credits” that are used to offset (mitigate) authorized wetland impacts.

“I would think that the DNR, we’re in their park, I would think that they would be able to figure out how to help us out,” District 5 commissioner Lee Rogness said. “It just drives the price of this project up. It’s like buying from the left hand to pay the right hand.”

The HOLT is a trail system between the cities of Pelican Rapids and Perham that will include connections to Vergas and Frazee in the future. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will be responsible for constructing the portion of the trail that runs through Maplewood State Park, which will connect the segments to the west and east.

“It’s been a long journey to get where we’ve been and this is just one of the requirements to get the permit to go through the park,” said Fellbaum.

Rogness was joined by board chairman and District 2 commissioner Wayne Johnson in discussion of the disappointing partnership with the DNR.

“This is for the sake of the project,” Johnson said. “I’m going to state when we get across the finish line on this thing, the DNR has not been a good partner on this whole thing. I’m under the impression that there are many that don’t want anybody to go to the state park because for whatever reason that should be held. This is the people’s land and it’s been a struggle to do this for the last three years. I’m less than thrilled by our partners at the Department of Natural Resources when it comes to anything in Maplewood State Park. We need to do this in order to get this thing done.”

Rogness added a follow-up comment to Johnson’s.

“We were hearing encouragement for this trail from the outset,” he said. “From the outset, it was just wonderful that we were doing this for the sake of the state. The DNR is an agency of the state. To further emphasize your comments we need to get this done, but there is something that’s awry here.”

The Cities of Vergas and Frazee are working on bike and pedestrian trail plans this year and a portion of that planning involved two public meetings, one in each city.

Regarding the trail reaching this area, a Vergas-based committee is planning to connect to both the Heartland Trail at Frazee and the Heart of the Lakes Trail.

The Frazee committee is planning a trail to connect the town to the new Wannigan Regional Park and complete the Heartland Trail connection from the bridge at County Road 10 and U.S. Highway 10 to Frazee city limits.

The public is invited to both open houses to view progress on these plans and provide input.

The first meeting will be held at the Vergas Event Center on Thursday, May 18 from 6-8 p.m. The second at the Frazee Event Center on Tuesday, May 23 from 6-8 p.m.