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Good news for Ely area: Prospector Loop ATV project moves ahead in St. Paul

Just before he threw a shovel of dirt at the VCC housing project groundbreaking, Senator Tom Bakk brought some good news from St. Paul: the Prospector Loop ATV trail project made it into the Senate bonding bill.
With the support of area communities, the Prospector Loop would create an ATV trail system that would connect Ely, Babbitt, Embarrass and Tower with the Lake Vermilion/Soudan Underground Mine and the Bear Head state parks. In addition, the trail system will connect to the Lake County trail system for over 250 miles of riding opportunities.
Bakk worked with Senator Leroy Stumpf who has Polaris and Arctic Cat in his district, helping to build the ATVs that now outnumber snowmobiles in Minnesota.
Providing trails for ATVs has become a high priority in the state and the Prospector Loop seeks to take advantage. As Senate Majority Leader, Bakk provided the DFL component and with Republican Tom Hackbarth in the House, the project has support from both parties, a crucial element in it being funded.
In addition, Senators Dave Tomassoni and Tom Saxhaug along with Representative Rob Ecklund have been working to make funding available.
The project cost is $3.2 million but the Senate bonding bill includes $1 million with a required $1 million match. Those monies have been provided for in the House from dedicated accounts, providing a total of $2 million as soon as this fall for construction.
Three public meetings were held on the project in the past month and each one was well attended. Members of the Prospector Alliance gave an overview of the project and answered questions.
Wetland delineation along with environmental review work is being done now with a goal of completion by the end of summer. Numerous county, state and federal agencies are looking at the project to make sure it meets all requirements.
That’s a lot of work for a volunteer organization but this group has shown it can put a major project together. Made up of representatives from each community, there is a wealth of experience in trail building and it shows.
We don’t know what is going to happen in St. Paul and we’ve heard the whispers of a do-nothing session where a bonding bill doesn’t get passed.
That would be a true crime in this case. The Prospector Loop would be a huge economic shot in the arm for the area, especially in the shoulder tourist seasons. Providing a first class trail system will be an attraction in itself. The added bonus is there will finally be ATV trail connections for residents to be able to get out and ride legally and safely.
Bakk delivered the good news one week ago that this project was in the senate bonding bill. We’d love to see this project survive and be funded by the end of the legislative session May 23.
We could use some good news up north and we’re counting on St. Paul to come through.

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