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EDITORIAL: ATV trails: The dawn of a new era in Ely’s tourism economy

Lead Summary

The future is finally here for Ely’s tourism economy as ATV trails were filled with riders for a state convention this past weekend.
The Prospector Alliance has been working to build trails to connect Ely, Babbitt, Tower and Embarrass for seven years. A lot of hard work is about to pay off for area businesses.
ATV Minnesota held its annual Ride and Rally in the four communities and attracted nearly 200 riders on Friday for a VIP ride from Embarrass to Tower. Politicians including U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, Minnesota state Senator Tom Bakk and Minnesota state Rep. Kurt Daudt, Rob Ecklund and Dave Lislegard were on hand and joined by local officials as well.
On Saturday, over 340 riders left on 12 different rides from seven locations, traveling between the four communities as well as south toward the North Shore. You can do that with over 250 miles of trails.
The ATVers in town spent money at our gas stations, restaurants, hotels, resorts and retail stores. They gave us a look at how our spring and fall seasons can be expanded.
While the trail heading east out of Ely is open, the trail to the west is currently under construction after being open for the Ride and Rally. There are additional sections that will open in the near future, providing even more opportunities for riders.
This has been a labor of love for the crew of volunteers who have stepped up and given of themselves and their time to make it happen. From meeting with agency officials to pounding stakes in the ground for signage, our gang of volunteers deserves a round of applause.
The best part of the project is that it will benefit riders who live here as well. And it may attract businesses tied to ATVing to consider opening here. Will we see a business renting ATVs one day and/or one to provide sales and service of machines? More than likely.
Ever since the BWCA was expanded in 1978 there has been the mantra of additional recreational opportunities outside the wilderness. Seeing miles and miles of ATV trails finally open is a huge step in the right direction.
We caught a glimpse this weekend of what the future holds, people coming here to ride ATVs in the North Country.

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