$100K for Vets on the Lake

St. Louis County awards funding to repave deteriorating trails

by Tom Coombe -

Christmas came a bit early this year for Veterans on the Lake Resort.
Earlier this week, St. Louis County granted the resort $100,000 to help resurface and repave deteriorating trails at the facility, located near Fall Lake.
Commissioner Paul McDonald of Ely was instrumental in getting the award, which was approved unanimously, added to a resolution to grant $150,000 for a Duluth-based project.
Veterans on the Lake officials lobbied board members in support of the project Tuesday, when commissioners met in Duluth.
Afterward, they were grateful for a grant that came together at the 11th hour.
“This came up unexpectedly,” said Mike Pope, commander of Ely VFW Post 2717 and a board member at Veterans on the Lake. “To us this is our Christmas in June.”
Pope said that resort officials have been working for more than a year on the project, even enlisting a grant writer in support of their effort to rehabilitate trails between the main lodge, various cabins and the lake at the veterans’ retreat.
According to Pope, accessibility was a prime consideration, as the poor condition of the pavement hindered those using wheel chairs or other devices.
In testimony before the county board, Veterans on the Lake board chairman Neil Olson said a sled hockey player tipped over in a pothole.
Once a privately-owned resort, Veterans on the Lake was formed in the 1980s and primarily serves disabled veterans, veterans, and groups with disabilities.
Total cost of the rehabilitation project is pegged at $138,000 and work is expected to begin yet this year.
The county award was a major shot in the arm for the initiatives, with McDonald and Virginia area commissioner Keith Nelson successfully adding it to a plan to provide $150,000 to help produce a media guide for a Duluth music festival.
The decision did not come without some consternation, as Duluth-based commissioner Frank Jewell protested the last-minute addition of the Ely area project. The Duluth project had been on the county radar for a much longer period of time.
Jewell, however, joined the rest of the commissioners in supporting the grant.
Pope said he was grateful for McDonald’s efforts to advance the project.
“We had no idea where this funding was going to come from, but it needed to get done,” said Pope.