Trails like Mesabi and Prospectors Loop expand Ely’s economic reach

There are two major trail projects which will reach Ely in the near future, the Mesabi Trail for biking and the Prospectors Loop for ATVs. Each will provide these benefits: people who live here will ride them and people will come here just to ride them.
We see these projects as a desperately needed addition to our current recreational opportunities. If we were going to nominate failures from changes in the BWCA over the years, the lack of new opportunities outside the Boundary Waters would be high on the list.
The rules and regulations in place in the BWCA do more to restrict people from coming to Ely than any of us cares to admit.    Some may not like that statement but our current economic decline has causes, whether we agree with them or not.
So what can we do about it? We can make improvements outside the BWCA to make Ely a better place to live and visit. These trail projects are great examples.
The Mesabi Trail project has been in the works for many years. To connect Ely to Grand Rapids with a paved trail is an ambitious goal. It is much closer to becoming a reality now but those last miles coming into Ely won’t be easy.
Private property owners have rightfully taken possession of the old railroad bed. A proposed route on the south side, following the Taconite snowmobile trail is far from a good solution. The Mesabi Trail may need to go in the highway right of way.
The Prospectors Loop faces challenges as well. Connecting Ely to the North Shore, Tower and Babbitt, as well as Embarrass and the two state parks (Bear Head and Lake Vermilion) would create a world class ATV experience.
Wisconsin is well ahead of Minnesota in offering ATV riders a friendly climate, just as states out west have. We can catch up in a hurry with the Prospectors Loop but it will take some time to get the permits in place and find the right funding sources.
We believe the end result will be worth the wait. Side by side ATVs have created a whole new class of users which in turn has put a jolt into the industry. Those new owners of side by sides are asking the pressing question: Where can we ride?
The volunteer board of the non-profit Prospectors Alliance have heard that question from both people who live here and people who want to load up their $70,000 Suburban, hook up their trailer and pull $40,000 in ATVs to Ely.
The area will benefit from trails like the Mesabi and the Prospectors Loop.  Additional recreational opportunities are on the horizon, providing benefits for both residents and visitors alike.