The preferred route for the Heartland Trail through Becker County goes from Detroit Lakes down through the Cormorant lakes area and back up to Lake Park, bypassing Audubon.

A separate, low priority trail runs does south through Audubon to Cormorant village, under the Master Trail Plan approved by the County Board Tuesday, but Audubon had originally been part of the discussion for the main Heartland Trail route.

The Cormorant area was included in the preferred route for several reasons: It’s considered more scenic because of the lakes and terrain, and that route would connect with potential or planned bike-pedestrian routes in Otter Tail County, said Guy Fischer, economic development coordinator for Becker County.

Those routes could include, for example, from Pelican Lake south on Otter Tail County Road 9 to Pelican Rapids 12 miles away. From Pelican Rapids a trail is planned to Maplewood State Park, and a connection to Fergus Falls is also under consideration, Fischer said.

Trail-planning around the Audubon area is also more difficult because of multiple gravel roads in the area. Planners made a decision fairly early on that paved trails would only run adjacent to paved roadways, Fischer said.

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All that being said, the trail plans aren’t written in stone. “All these projects have to be assessed and brought before the relevant committees, and that will change them,” Fischer said.

The Master Trail Plan, which covers everything from hiking to snowmobiling to horseback riding, was unanimously approved by the County Board -- with the understanding that “it is a living document and subject to change,” said Commissioner Larry Knutson, who made the motion to approve.