OTC pursues grant for Family Resource Centers

Contributed photo
The portion of the Heart of the Lakes multi-use trail through Maplewood Park has begun. The Otter Tail Board of Commissioners approved the payout to the landowners and for the processing of the wetland banking credits during the April 9 meeting. The Heart of the Lakes trail will connect Pelican Rapids to Perham.

By Robert Williams


Director of Parks and Trails Kevin Fellbaum reported the actual costs and wetland banking credits processing fees for the acres of land needed for construction of the Maplewood section of the Heart of the Lakes Trail to the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, April 9. 

The cost for the acres is $127,000 to be paid to sellers Dean and Joann Spaeth and $4,353.56 to release the wetland banking credits.

Tree cutting on the trail portion is scheduled to begin immediately. 

The Heart of the Lakes trail project will create a system between the cities of Pelican Rapids and Perham. This multi-use trail will provide cyclists, joggers/hikers, and others more than 30 miles of new trails. The new trail will run through Maplewood State Park, making the park’s existing and extensive trail system a natural destination and extension of this new multi-use trail.

Family Resource Centers

In a continued effort to enhance community support for families and with funding from the Sauer Family Foundation, Otter Tail County, in partnership with Health and Human Services Consultant Meghan Mohs, undertook a comprehensive Community Needs Assessment in late 2023. 

Studies have shown that Family Resource Centers (FRCs) yield significant results for families, particularly in preventing child maltreatment. The assessment results suggest the establishment of FRCs in Otter Tail County to create a supportive network for families, addressing their diverse needs and fostering community well-being.

Family Resource Centers, as defined by the National Family Support Network, serve as inclusive hubs offering support, services, and opportunities for families. These centers prioritize strengthening families by focusing on research-based protective factors, including Parental Resilience, Social Connections, Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development, Concrete Support in Times of Need, and Social Emotional Competence of Children.

County Commissioner Bob Lahman, District 4, from Parkers Prairie, participated in the workgroup and shared, “By listening in our communities, we have a better understanding of what families need, and we are looking forward to the next steps.”

Findings include parents and caregivers feeling stressed, busy, and at times lonely and isolated, yet they are supported by the community when seeking help.

Children and youth experience stress and strained mental health, especially teenage girls, but feel safe, loved, and appreciated at home.

Main stressors for families include the challenges of parenting, lack of work-life balance, financial difficulties, and navigating access to support services.

Identified service gaps encompass behavioral health care, affordable childcare, transportation and other basic needs.

Parents expressed a desire for support in effective parenting, information on child development, teen-focused activities, opportunities for paternal involvement and accessible avenues for seeking assistance without stigma.

Otter Tail County will apply for a development grant through the Sauer Family Foundation. If awarded, this grant will support the work necessary to move to the development of Family Resource Centers in Otter Tail County.

Probation Systems Assessment

Otter Tail County has concluded a comprehensive review of community probation supervision services. The assessment, which began in August 2023, involved establishing a county-wide advisory committee, distributing surveys, and conducting extensive interviews. The final assessment report was formally presented to the County Board of Commissioners during the April 9 board meeting.

Deputy Administrator Lynne Penke Valdes expressed Otter Tail County’s ongoing dedication to implementing the Long-range Strategic Plan. 

“The Long-Range Strategic Plan prioritizes resilience in Otter Tail County, and this assessment marks continued progress toward that goal,” she said. “We are committed to fostering continuous improvements across systems to enrich the lives of all residents in Otter Tail County.”

The Board of Commissioners listened to the presentation and asked that a Board of Commissioners committee meeting be set for a future date.

Board of Commissioners Chair Kurt Mortenson thanked Penke Valdes for the presentation and reaffirmed the county’s dedication to reviewing existing county systems and their alignment with the goals outlined in the long-range strategic plan.

For those interested in accessing Otter Tail County Probation’s 2024 Comprehensive Plan, the document can be viewed on the Probation Department webpage at www.ottertailcounty.gov/department/probation/.


A feedlot public meeting was held to discuss the expansion of a steer feedlot system at Style-Heaven Holsteins, a feedlot owned by Kyle and Stephanie Goeller near Sebeka.

“It’s a way to diversify our operation from our dairy and try to do more for our family,” Kyle Goeller said. 

District 2 Commissioner Wayne Johnson acknowledged the current disparity between the feeder cattle market compared to milk prices and the need to diversify.

“This board recognizes the value of agriculture to this community and understands it also brings challenges to those involved in that production and it appears that you are taking steps to address some of those challenges,” said Chairman Kurt Mortenson. “We applaud your efforts to enlarge your operation and to do it in a fashion that meets the guidelines of the MPCA (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency).”

Community Development

West Central Initiative approved a third round of grants totaling $20,000 to Otter Tail County as fiscal host to support child care project managers.

Project managers delivered 580 hours of technical assistance to providers and prospective child care providers in 2023, according to Community Development Directory Amy Baldwin.

“We know it’s making an impact when we hear from the providers,” she said.