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Heart of the Lakes Trail

Houston Engineering Project
Heart of the Lakes Trail

Location:  Otter Tail County, Minnesota
Client:  Otter Tail County Highway Department


Minnesota winters are harsh which is why residents are eager to take advantage of the beautiful summer months by spending time around the beautiful forests and lakes throughout the state. This is true especially in the region around Maplewood State Park.

Several years ago, the Otter Tail County Highway Department began an ambitious trail project that would create a trail system between the cities of Pelican Rapids and Perham. Creating a multi-use sidepath trail between these two cities will provide cyclists, joggers/hikers, and others more than 30 miles of new trails. Importantly, this new trail will run through Maplewood State Park, making the park’s existing and extensive trail system a natural extension of this new multi-use trail.

The Project

Houston Engineering, Inc. (HEI) was retained by the Otter Tail County Highway Department to complete preliminary and final design, surveying, environmental permitting, aquatic resources (wetland) delineation, culvert sizing, construction observation, and public engagement. Additionally, HEI’s team designed the maps displayed along the trail.

The full trail system is being designed and constructed in multiple segments. The eastern segment stretches from Perham nearly 7 miles west to OTC CSAH 35. The western segment begins in Pelican Rapids and extends 7 miles east to Maplewood State Park. The middle segment stretches from the east project limits and runs along McDonald and Silent lakes, stretching for approximately 14 miles to a north entrance into Maplewood State Park.

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.

Because the project limits extend nearly 30 miles with some rough terrain, the client and HEI chose to employ drone-based LiDAR. This allowed the entire corridor to be surveyed in a fraction of the time and was safer than with traditional survey. Traditional survey was still used to verify LiDAR accuracy as well as to survey culverts and locations where the LiDAR was not able to penetrate.


Client Benefits

This project includes a new multi-use sidepath that will allow cyclists, joggers, and others to enjoy the region between Pelican Rapids to Perham, including Maplewood State Park. Also featured in the project are trail maps that were designed for each trail segment and placed along the 30-mile trail to inform users of their location and nearby amenities.