ATV trails get IRRRB grants

A major infusion of IRRRB funds will help build ATV trails in northeast Minnesota.
The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board had budgeted $3 million for trails projects but that amount had to be increased to $3.4 million to fund all of the approved projects.
Governor Mark Dayton signed off on the budget increase and 11 projects were approved.
Included in those were $2.3 million for ATV trails in Ely, Crane Lake and the Quad Cities.
The breakdown for those projects is as follows:
• Voyageur Country ATV club: Vermilion River Bridge: $1,176,400
• Prospector Loop: trails connecting cities, including 11 bridges: $972,600
• Quad Cities ATV Club, trail design/development/town connectors: $166,900
“This will provide a major boost to these ATV projects,” said Nick Wognum, president of the Prospector Alliance. “We’ve been working on this for over a year and with the help of people like Senator Tom Bakk and Representative Rob Ecklund, we were able to secure a major source of funding.”
Both the Prospector and Voyageur projects have already been able to get funding from St. Paul.
“This is about leveraging dollars and working with various funding sources,” said Wognum. “We believe we are very close to being able to open over 250 miles of trail on the Prospector Loop.”
Progress on the Voyageur Country ATV trail, Prospector Loop Trail, and Quad Cities ATV trail were slowed down this year due primarily to vetoes of funding bills during the last session.
The IRRR Board approved grants last week that will allow the bridge of the Vermilion River -- which had been a bonding request last session -- to be bid out and built this coming construction season, thanks to the IRRRB trails grant.
“The Voyageur Country ATV Club looks forward to using IRRRB funds to enhance our local recreational opportunities year-round,” said club board member Gretchen Janssen.
“A bridge over the Vermilion River will connect many miles of existing trails from Buyck to Camp 5 township opening up a huge area to play in by ATV or snowmobile.”
The Prospector Loop trail had received funding through bonding in 2015 and dedicated ATV funding in 2016, plus an RTP grant, Polaris grant, and Yamaha grant, but was still short monies to finish the project.
“Now we can go back to St. Paul this session and get the funding that was in the omnibus bill that didn’t pass finally approved,” said Wognum. “These are monies from the dedicated ATV account that comes from licenses and a portion of the gas tax.”
The Prospector project that will connect the cities of Ely, Babbitt , Embarrass, Tower and Soudan to the North Shore and the Lake County Regional ATV trail systems.
Also funded from the IRRRB Trails fund was $166,900 for the Quad Cities to complete the ATV trail connection over the new Highway 53 bridge, connecting the City of Virginia with the Iron Range OHV State Recreation Area.
This funding will also continue with trail planning, design and development of the trail going north and connecting to the Voyageur Country ATV’s trail.
It will also continue with efforts to connect to the east, through the Iron Range OHV site on to Biwabik and Aurora, which will connect with the Prospectors Loop trail.
The IRRRB monies should allow the Vermilion River bridge to be done and open for use in time for the 2019 ATVAM Fall Ride & Rally, which will be held in Crane Lake in September.
The Prospector Loop will host the event in 2020.