Specific routes haven't been decided upon yet, but a general master plan should be in place in the next couple months for the Heartland Trail extension from Park Rapids to Moorhead.
City, county and state officials met Tuesday afternoon in Wolf Lake to discuss the next step in the trail extension project. Last time they met, they discussed routes from Park Rapids to Wolf Lake and Frazee through Smokey Hills National Forest.
"We need all the options to evaluate, rather than less options," John Steward, acquisition and development coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources Parks & Trails Division, said.
Regardless of the final route, the multi-use trail will likely travel from Park Rapids to Osage, through Smokey Hills and down to Wolf Lake. It has been discussed to have the non-motorized trail follow the Highway 34 right-of-way, but many people have expressed their desire to have the trail be more scenic, on the back roads rather than just along the highway. There would also be issues with wetlands along the Highway 34 right-of-way.
From Wolf Lake, there has been discussion of traveling past Toad Lake Store and through the Amish country to get to Frazee. Another "very viable option" Frazee Clerk-Treasurer Jon Smith said, was to come down County Road 39 to State Highway 87 and travel Highway 87 into Frazee. It would be simpler, he added.
"The idea was to have a rest stop in Toad Lake, otherwise it's a straight shot," he added of the first option.
He also said it would be better to "market" the trail if it went through the Amish country and gave people a chance to buy the fresh grown products the Amish have for sale.
"I like staying north (of Highway 87) until Frazee just because of that crossing," Laurie Young, DNR Trails and Waterways planning supervisor, said.
From Frazee to Detroit Lakes, the trail would likely run along Highway 10, with land acquisition requests already being put into motion.
"We don't have a super fast process," Steward said, "but it's been formally put into play."
He said it usually takes about six to seven months for the land appraisal and offers process.
"Is there any chance we can get this started next year?" asked former Detroit Lakes mayor Larry Buboltz.
"I think we're really close," Young answered of the master plan being finished.
"In a few months?" he asked.
"Oh yeah," she replied.
Young said the master plan has to be finished according to state statute before the next step in the process can take place. But that master plan isn't set in stone either. She said she wants to be able to take a marker and draw on a map where the trail is planned for, but also have a couple back-up routes incase one shouldn't work out.
"But not specific enough people get upset it's going through their backyard," she added.
The next meeting on the Heartland Trail is to discuss the route from Detroit Lakes to Lake Park, and it is scheduled for Wednesday, July 22, at 5:30 p.m. in Detroit Lakes.