A campground for all-terrain vehicle users in a separate portion of Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park is crawling ahead at the Minnesota Legislature.
The $6 million park would be located across Highway 169, south of the most recently developed portion of the park, said Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook.
“We intend to build it,” said Bakk. “It's going to be a big deal.”
Bakk and Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, on Thursday introduced SF 0497, legislation that compliments HF 251, a bill authored by Rep. Rob Ecklund, DFL-International Falls.
The bills require the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) commissioner to redesignate the area of the park south of Highway 169 from a state park to a state recreation area, allowing an off-highway vehicle campground meeting the requirements of a master plan, to be built at the site.
A 2010 DNR master plan for the state park recommended the campground.
“In the original master plan put together by a large group of stakeholders, it always had an ATV campground in the plan,” said Bakk. “We're going to use language similar to Tettegouche (state park) which will create that piece of the park.”
Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park is the state's newest state park. The park is composed of the historic Soudan Underground Mine and the new 3,000 acre portion, which opened in 2017.
The new portion of the park was developed after the state bought the land in 2010 from United States Steel for $19 million.
Bakk was instrumental in developing and securing funding for the 3,000-acre expansion.
The land on the south side of the highway, which would become the ATV campground, is part of the new portion of the park.
However, under state law, ATVs are not permitted within state parks, except in Tettegouche State Park at Silver Bay, which has 6.5 miles of ATV trails.
That's why the language similar to Tettegouche—which would retain the campground site as a state park—yet allow ATV use within it, is required, said Bakk.
ATV's would not be allowed in the new portion of the park, north of Highway 169, per law.
The ATV campground would provide riders access to the nearby Taconite State Trail, said Ecklund.
Connections to Ely, the Prospector Loop Trail and to Silver Bay, would also result, said Bakk.
All-terrain vehicle users and supporters have been working in recent years to expand the ATV trail system in northeastern Minnesota, adding more trails and connecting communities.
The 2010 DNR Cooperative Master Plan for the Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park recommended for years 2011-2020 that a trail-oriented, semi-modern campground south of Highway 169 be developed. The campground should accommodate OHV recreationalists by allowing OHV travel within the campground, provide ample trailer parking and connections to OHV opportunities outside the park, according to the master plan.
Funding for the campground will be sought in the current legislative session, said Bakk.
“There's a serious economy around ATV's,” said Bakk. “But you need more than just trails.”