Dayton backs Prospector Loop ATV trail

by Tom Coombe
If at first you don’t succeed, try again.
That’s the approach Gov. Mark Dayton seems to be taking this year by submitting a $1.5 billion bonding proposal that, in many ways, is a rehash of a proposal that failed to take hold after a legislative standoff in 2016.
Two local projects will advance in a big way if lawmakers come to an agreement this time around.
Dayton’s plan includes $1 million for the Prospectors Loop ATV Trail and about $1.6 million to replace roofs on two classroom buildings at Vermilion Community College.
The proposal came as the legislative session opened in St. Paul, with Dayton pressing for action in a bill that he says will result in about 23,000 jobs across the state.
“I’m proposing a bonding bill that should have been passed nine months ago,” Dayton said in a conference call on Wednesday.
It’s the second time around in St. Paul for the ATV trail proposal.
With the support of area communities, the Prospector Loop would create an system that would connect Ely, Babbitt, Embarrass and Tower with the Lake Vermilion/Soudan Underground Mine and the Bear Head state parks. Plans also call for Prospectors Loop to link with the Lake County trail system for over 250 miles of riding opportunities.
The project got support in both branches of the legislature in 2016 and is backed by both State Sen. Tom Bakk and State Rep. Rob Ecklund.
The project cost is $3.2 million, with bonding and a a required $1 million match. from dedicated accounts, providing a total of $2 million to initiate construction.
“We believe we have support from both sides of the aisle for this project,” said Prospector Alliance president Nick Wognum.
“We were successful at getting $1 million last year from the ATV dedicated accounts which we hope to tap for the remaining $1 million if the bonding bill is passed,” said Wognum.
At VCC, there’s cautious optimism that the state will approve funding to put new roofs on both the main classroom building as well as the natural science building.
But provost Shawn Bina is tempering that optimism with a bit of realism, and the delay in approval of a 2016 bonding bill has created a backlog of sorts.
Bina and other college officials across the state are already working on their wish list for potential bonding legislation, which includes $2.3 million in requests for VCC, including one of the roof projects that’s already included in Dayton’s plan.
“I’m optimistic the bonding bill will get passed, but I’m not optimistic Vermilion will get the full $1.6 million,” said Bina. “I’d like to get both roofs (this year) but I’m planning on getting one.”
Likely to be included in next year’s request is a project calling for major renovations to VCC’s classroom building.
No city projects are in the

Dayton proposal but Ely officials are looking for legislative action, or money from existing state programs or agencies, to fund two major projects.
The city has made the reconstruction of 17th Avenue East a top priority and sought $1 million for the initiative in 2016. Also in the hopper is the development of a trailhead on Ely’s west entrance, part of a $1.3 million proposal that ties in with efforts to expand Pattison Street to the west and accommodate future potential expansion at Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital.
The Republican-controlled State House and Senate are likely to act on their own bonding bills, with negotiations among all parties - including Dayton - likely later this year to sort out any differences.
Dayton, who will not seek re-election in 2018, called the bonding bill critical for Minnesota.
“My proposals would put thousands of Minnesotans to work throughout our state, increasing economic opportunity and strengthening local economies,” said Governor Dayton. “This bill will help deliver clean, reliable water to Minnesota communities, ensure our higher education institutions have the facilities they need to train our workforce, and build community projects across our state. I urge the Legislature to pass this Jobs Bill quickly, to support our local economies and create good jobs across the state.”