Walking trail tells story of NY Mills

Photo by Tucker Henderson
Several interactive signs have been set up across New York Mills as part of the new interactive trail.

By Tucker Henderson


As you walk the streets of New York Mills, there is a new opportunity to learn about the city’s history with each step you take. The Talking Trail has been fully installed with signs at different businesses and important areas around town, complete with a downloadable app for smart phone users.

A Talking Trail is a network of signs and audio files that is available to cell phone users by calling the designated phone number on each sign, or using the app or website to listen to historical stories, while being able to stroll down the sidewalk or pathway that the sign is located on.

Betsy Roder said that if memory serves her correctly, she came up with the idea to bring a talking trail to town. She had been on a family vacation to North Dakota and got to experience the Enchanted Highway Talking Trail. After looking into installing one in NY Mills through the Cultural Center, she found that it was a bit beyond their budget.

After the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the more events and projects that could be held outdoors, the better in terms of the Cultural Center’s outreach. The Talking Trail fit that need and marketing grants became available around the same time.

In cooperation with Otter Tail County, the Cultural Center was able to share the cost of a 40-point Talking Trail. The Otter Tail Scenic Byway has 23 stops around the county to check out, while NY Mills was able to secure the final 17 of those points for its own narrative.

A committee made up of community members including Duane and Ruth Koehler, Cheri Kopeveiler, Marsha Maki, Mike Parta, Julie Roberts and Roder chose the history topics for the alloted talking points and reached out to historical businesses that were still around. Roder said they wanted committee members from a range of involvement in the city’s past and present.

The scripts were written through a cooperation with the Otter Tail County Historical Society to verify historical accounts and facts when available. Other resources such as the city website, Centennial and 75 Year Anniversary books, and anecdotes from local residents.

“We tried to be inclusive and cover as much as possible.”

Betsy Roder, Executive Director of the NYM Regional Cultural Center

Chris Schuelke, Executive Director of the Otter Tail County Historical Society, read and recorded the histories of each talking point which ranges from Farmers and Merchants Bank to the old pickle factory. The signs are all located within the city limits of NY Mills with the exception of a duplicate sign for Finn Creek at the museum’s location south of town.

“(The talking trail) helps us share the history of our region and this is an accessible way to do that,” said Roder. “You just need a cell phone or computer to enjoy it.”

Roder also mentions that the trail is for both local residents and visitors to the city as they learn about the region’s rich history. Feedback is always welcomed about the project and people can reach out to the Cultural Center if they have any comments. Roder said that this is a project of the community, for the community, which made it perfect for local involvement, a mission the Cultural Center is always endeavoring towards.