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Forum Communications, Published August 03 2012

Groundbreaking Friday at Lake Vermilion State Park

TOWER, Minn. – A 70-unit campground, tree houses for kids to play in and an adventure trail that includes a ropes course are among the elements slated to be built in the first phase of construction at Lake Vermilion State Park near Tower, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials said Friday.

There was a ceremonial groundbreaking Friday morning at the 3,000-acre “next-generation” park on the shores of Lake Vermilion. It has been touted by DNR officials as a “pilot park” that will include many features not found at other state parks. Lake Vermilion State Park, authorized by the Legislature in 2008, is the first major state park developed in Minnesota in more than 30 years.

DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr and Parks and Trails Division Director Courtland Nelson were joined at Friday’s groundbreaking by local and regional partners who have contributed ideas and support for the park.

Boat docks, fishing platforms, picnic shelters, roads, parking areas and a paved bike route will be among other features developed in the next two years, officials said. Plans also call for four camper cabins to be built as early as this fall in the adjacent Soudan Underground Mine State Park.

Future phases of construction, pending funding, will include a visitor center, trail system and group camp, as well as hike-in and boat-in campsites. A heritage center, featuring the history of mining in the area, is planned at the adjacent Soudan Underground Mine State Park.

In 2008, the Minnesota Legislature set aside $20 million in bonding to purchase, plan and develop the park. The purchase agreement for the 3,000-acre property was signed in May 2010, and a master plan for the park was developed with public input.

Some funding for the new park facilities will come from the Parks and Trails Fund, created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008.

Additional funding sources will include the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund and the State Park Road Account or state highway funding. Dedicated snowmobile funding also will be used to establish and maintain the current snowmobile trail through the park.

The park has been open since 2010 for recreation opportunities such as hiking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and geocaching.

For more information about the park, or to see a copy of the master plan, visit www.mndnr.gov.

New facility at Bear Head Lake

Also Friday, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for a new trail center building at Bear Head Lake State Park near Ely.

Landwehr and Nelson unveiled an architectural drawing of the building, which will be paid for in part by the $100,000 prize the park received after being voted the winner of Coca-Cola’s nationwide “America’s Favorite Park” contest in 2010.

The structure will serve as a warming shelter; provide space for interpretive programs; and be available for use by the public for meetings, wedding receptions and other gatherings. Construction is slated to be completed by spring.