REGIONAL – The proposed Lake Vermilion Trail connecting Cook and Tower got a big boost with a regional trail designation by the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission (GMRPTC) …
REGIONAL – The proposed Lake Vermilion Trail connecting Cook and Tower got a big boost with a regional trail designation by the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission (GMRPTC) earlier this summer.
The commission voted on the project’s new status at their June meeting.
The designation means the trail will now have the ability to expand what type of funds it can apply for, making it easier to apply for grants, and even request bonding bills from area governments.
The trail, as currently planned, will extend up to 42 miles in length and will connect the cities of Tower and Cook with a multi-purpose paved pathway for hiking, biking and other recreational use.
Upon completion, the trail will also directly connect trail users to the larger Mesabi Trail network at the Lake Vermilion - Soudan Underground Mine State Park, and eventually to Ely as part of the final completion of the Mesabi Trail.
Even with the opportunity to bring in more money, the trail is still just a proposal, but one that has gained more traction now that an official joint powers agreement between local municipalities is in place. Phase one planning for trailheads is moving quickly.
“We would like to break ground within the next two years,” said board member and resort owner Josh Gillson. “Next summer is a very real possibility, but it is not a sure thing. Definitely by 2020. Right now, it is an imaginary line drawn along the south side of Lake Vermilion.”
Estimates on the cost of the trail range from $200,000 to $500,000 per mile depending on the terrain.
Gillson said many property owners have also not been contacted to negotiate right-of-way easements across their land.
The next major step for the project will be to obtain federal and state tax identifications for the organization to allow funding to be more easily processed. Gillson said he hopes the group will be completely self-sustaining by the end of the year, depending on success with current grant applications.
When ground is broken, construction will begin at both ends of the trail before meeting in the middle.