Becker County is in the early stages of creating an ambitious Master Trails Plan.
The plan is broad in scope, with options for hiking, walking and biking. Plans if you are on a snowmobile, ATV or a horse. There is even a designated water trail on the Ottertail River, for canoes and kayakers.
The only thing needed is you.
For these trails to be effective -- for recreation and economics -- Becker County residents must get involved at the front end of the conversation.
We have seen what happens when residents are not at the table from the beginning of important decisions.
In Otter Tail County to the south, some residents are up-in-arms about a $14 million countywide trail that is already taking shape. The Perham to Pelican Rapids Regional Trail is a 10-foot wide, 32-mile long path that will run through Maplewood State Park.
There are potential economic and tourism benefits to the trail, Otter Tail officials say. But some homeowners are unhappy with how the trail decision has been communicated. The trail might even cross into their private property, destroying treelines and putting foot traffic right in their yards, according to recent reporting by the Perham Focus, a sister-newspaper to the Tribune.
Otter Tail County Public Works Director Rick West told the Focus recently that eminent domain is an option, as long as the road or trail project shows a public purpose.
While the argument is loud today, what is lost is that the Perham to Pelican trail has been public knowledge for years. The trail planning process began in 2012 when Otter Tail County officials assembled a countywide economic development committee that discovered a need to have more recreation options. In 2014, public meetings began.
“Just like a lot of our public meetings, 20 people showed up,” West told the Focus. “We provide some opportunity for folks to express their concerns; at those meetings it was overall positive.”
But not everyone was aware, or paying attention.
Now back to today in Becker County.
County officials have timelines and information on their website, at www.co.becker.mn.us/dept/parks_recreation/master_trail_plan.aspx.
And local residents were invited Aug. 21 to a trails meeting at the Detroit Lakes Public Library. SRF Consulting Group Inc. of Fargo was to explain where the process is now and facilitate discussion with the public on recreational trail types, destinations and future opportunities.
Were you in attendance?
If not, now is the time to get informed about the master trail plan, to have a say in how your county grows and develops.
And to keep from waking up in a few years to an unexpected construction surprise in your backyard.