$2 million in ATV trail work begins
The Prospector Loop ATV trail project will take a giant step forward this summer with over $2 million in construction work.
“We started on this project in 2013 so it’s been seven years to get to this point,” said Prospector Alliance president Nick Wognum.
The Prospector ATV trail system connects Ely, Babbitt, Embarrass, Tower and the North Shore through existing and new trails along with the Taconite Trail between Ely and Purvis Lake.
In 2019 there was $700,000 in improvements made on sections of the trail east of Ely and between the Knotted Pine and Wildhurst east of Highway 1.
In 2020 the connections between Babbitt, Embarrass and Tower will be constructed as well.
“Our sponsor Lake County has approved two contracts totaling over $2 million for trail constructions, bridges and boardwalks,” said Prospector Trail Administrator Ron Potter.
Mesabi Bituminous was the low bidder for the trail construction work at $1,425,487. Solutions 101 will build the bridges and boardwalks at a cost of $620,981.
“There’s still another section that will go out to bids soon for a bridge over the Beaver River to connect to the Taconite Trail,” said Wognum.
This spring Mesabi Bituminous removed trees along the construction route in order to meet bat nesting rules. That cost came in at $114,000.
“With the engineering work, permitting, wetland credits and construction our total project budget is about $3.7 million right now and our trail system will be over 250 miles long,” said Wognum.
Some of the larger sections to be constructed include connecting Babbitt to the Ely-Virginia (904) Road.
“We’ve called this the Soular Swamp after board member Dave Soular who’s been working on ATV trails out of Babbitt for many years,” said Potter. “There’s a boardwalk that’s over 1,300 feet long in that section plus a new bridge as well.”
The work being done this summer also includes the section from the east side of Ely to Lake County Highway 16.
“We had to make a change so that section didn’t get built last fall. When that is done you can ride from Ely to the east all the way to Mattila’s Shelter and from there either south to the North Shore or west to Babbitt,” said Wognum.
The Prospector ATV trail system is being built with funding from several sources including the IRRRB, state bonding monies, a federal Recreational Trails Program grant and monies from the state ATV Dedicate Account fund.
“We’re still working on a funding gap to build the bridge over the Beaver River but we’ve been working to fill that gap so we can get everything built in 2020,” said Potter.
The DNR plans to start $1 million in improvements on the Taconite Trail between Ely and the Beaver River connection.
The Prospector Club is scheduled to host the 2020 ATV Minnesota Fall Ride and Rally event September 18-20.