News

Fri
16
Jul

BWCA closures expanding to west; USFS, DNR install fire bans

BREAKING:
A new closure in the BWCA west of Basswood to Crane Lake is in place as of July 17. There are currently seven wildfires burning in Quetico Provincial Park with the potential to spread into the Crooked Lake travel corridor and beyond Crooked and Iron Lakes, into more heavily visited areas of the Wilderness. Fire managers have identified two fires with a serious potential to spread across the border. Recent reconnaissance flights have indicated an increase in fire behavior with Canada’s fires, despite the lighter winds; fuels in this area are pre-heating and becoming more volatile. Closures will remain in place until fires in this region no longer pose a risk to the public. Visitor and firefighter safety is the number one priority during a closure due to wildfire.

Fri
16
Jul

Ely Winter Festival unveils pin for 2022

In the middle of summer, The Ely Winter Festival board is looking toward winter and planning to create another festival Feb. 4-12, 2022. The festival draws thousands of people from the upper Midwest and beyond.
Board chair Chris Kloppenberg said, “After a smaller but successful 2021 festival, we are excited to be creating a traditional festival with a park full of snow sculptors and many outdoor events.”
The 2022 pin depicting a carver working on a moose snow sculpture was designed by local artist Nancy Ensley.
This will be the fifth festival where the festival will have donated $1 of the $6 price of a pin to an Ely Public Schools arts program.
Programs supported so far have been the art department, the instrumental and choral departments, and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math). Proceeds from the 2022 pin sales will go to another arts endeavor for students. The other $5 is a vital part of being able to put on the festival.

Fri
09
Jul

Council fills city positions, declares “Twin Metals Appreciation Days”

by Tom Coombe
Two city positions were filled Tuesday as council members breezed through a packed agenda.
Upon recommendation of the city’s employee relations committee, the council voted unanimously to hire David Huberty for the part-time planning and zoning administrator position, and promoted Troy Oelke to the post of Equipment Operator III.
Both moves came at a council session that lasted less than an hour.
Huberty, whose hire is subject to a background check, was one of two candidates interviewed for the planning and zoning job, last held by Tim Riley.
“It was a competitive process, said council member Heidi Omerza, a member of the employee relations committee. “We’re grateful to have so many interested candidates.”
Oelke was one of four internal candidates to be interviewed for the equipment operator job.
Both the Huberty and Oelke hires were recommended unanimously by the employee relations committee on June 30.

Fri
02
Jul

Prospector ATV project picks up $1 million

The Prospector ATV Club will be able to move forward with phase two of trail construction following action by the state legislature in special session.
The bill, signed by the governor, will allow the club to access $955,000 in ATV dedicated account monies for five projects including a bridge over the Beaver River.
The Beaver River bridge will provide a permanent connection from Babbitt to the Taconite Trail. The project is expected to cost $1.3 million.
In addition, there are four other projects where planning and environmental review can begin.
“We’re just completing Phase One with miles of new trail being built between Babbitt and Tower,” said Prospector trail administrator Ron Potter. “This is the next step for us. The Beaver River crossing is an important connection between the Taconite Trail and Prospector.”

Fri
02
Jul

A full, fun Fourth in Ely

by Tom Coombe
If it’s possible to cram two years’ worth of fun into one day, Ely just might do it on Sunday.
After a 2020 Independence Day that included a scaled-back parade, the usual fireworks but not much else, the community’s Fourth of July festivities are back in full force this year.
With COVID-19 pandemic restrictions over and the city of Ely resuming sponsorship of Fourth events, the celebration has returned to a more typical affair - including a few new twists.
As usual, the parade and fireworks remain the signature events, but early risers have a pair of events to choose from - including the newly-added flag raising ceremony and the annual “Four on the Fourth” race around the Trezona Trail - but festivities continue throughout the day.
Community organizers kept Ely’s parade tradition alive in 2020 with an event that got rave reviews and in many ways mirrored previous parades.

Fri
25
Jun

Domino’s coming to Ely

by Tom Coombe
Domino’s Pizza may soon be delivering in Ely, perhaps yet this summer.
The popular national pizza chain is angling to open a location in Ely - presumably in the building that once housed Pizza Hut and most recently was home to Two Gringos.
Domino’s franchisee Duane Carlson confirmed his intentions via email on Thursday.
If all goes as planned, Domino’s pizza and other food items will be available for delivery, takeout and even dine-in during August.
“I have looked at putting a store in Ely for the majority of my career and the right location and opportunity has finally emerged,” said Carlson. “We are excited to begin the process which started with securing a location and informing (Domino’s) of my intent.”
Carlson lives in International Falls and said he’s been making trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for more than 40 years.

Thu
17
Jun

Public access at Burntside will stay open until July 8

The Fourth of July on Burntside Lake just became a little easier to enjoy.
The Tower office of DNR Parks and Waterways announced Wednesday the Van Vac public access will now remain open until July 8.
A pre-construction meeting for the project was held last week and contractor Low Impact gave notice that work won’t start until July 8.
That’s a welcome relief for people trying to launch boats on Burntside Lake, which has limited public accesses.
The landing on Van Vac is the easiest to access and offers the most parking.
Other landings are at Burntside Lodge (parking on Hwy. 88), Wolf Lake Road (two small parking lots), Passi Road (very limited parking) and North Arm Road (limited parking).

Thu
17
Jun

School reworks project

by Tom Coombe
In some ways, it’s back to the drawing board for a $20 million renovation project on the Ely school campus.
While demolition of the Industrial Arts Building began last week and nearly $12 million in construction bids have already been awarded, bids for a second phase are roughly $4.5 million over budget and will prompt some “dialing back” of the project, school bard members heard Monday night.
The board took no action this week and will meet with administrators at a Tuesday study session to gather more input, but barring an unanticipated source of new revenue, it appears that many of the renovations planned for the Washington and Memorial buildings will have to be reduced or revamped in order to meet the project budget.
The board has formally rejected bids that came in last month at approximately $8.8 million, well over the engineers’ estimates of $4.3 million.
Now, they’ll wait as architects and contractors come up with a new plan.

Fri
11
Jun

Ely’s ballpark graduation

by Tom Coombe
Ely Memorial High School’s graduating class of 2021 mixed old traditions with new as they bid a fond farewell.
Commencement ceremonies were held outdoors, at Veterans Memorial Field, rather than inside at Washington Auditorium.
The graduates also took part in a parade through town after the event, continuing a tradition started only last year.
Yet the ceremonies themselves, minus the change of venue, resembled those of recent years and even decades ago.
The class was small in number, with 37 earning diplomas and 34 taking part in the commencement amid unseasonably warm temperatures.
Several hundred people watched from the stadium grandstand and the paved pavilion area at the historic ballpark, with the graduates, in full regalia, sitting in chairs on either side of home plate.
They gathered together at the end of an at-times bizarre school years, disrupted and altered because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fri
11
Jun

Ely a “small town to visit”

by Tom Coombe
In the eyes of a national publication, Ely is a must-see destination for those looking to vacation in a smaller community.
Smithsonian Magazine named Ely one of the “15 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2021,” in an article published earlier this week.
As the nation emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and travel ramps up even further, the magazine highlighted small communities and said “perhaps more than ever now is a time to appreciate small towns.”
The magazine assembled a list and added “the best small towns to visit in 2021 are prime examples of perseverance and preservation, and reminders of all that we love about small towns in the first place.”
Ely joins a list of iconic and lesser-known communities including Dyersville, Iowa, home of the baseball field from the movie “Field of Dreams.”

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