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Hook and bullet club - Trail shelters

A phone call from a family that lost a loved one brought trails back into focus last week.The family wanted to know if there was a sponsorship program for shelters on snowmobile trails. I’m looking into the issue with the DNR, but on the Tomahawk Trail, we have a shelter under these conditions now.Mattila’s Shelter is located at the intersection of the Tomahawk Trail and the spur that runs to Babbitt. It is a convenient mid-way rest stop for riders going between Ely and Isabella as well.The shelter is nothing fancy, a three-sided structure with a plaque remembering a lost loved one, a fire pit and an outhouse. Located in a picturesque pine setting, hundreds of snowmobilers stop there each winter. There are similar shelters on the Taconite Trail, including one near Purvis Lake that we often pull into when out for a family ride. The Arrowhead Trail has some very nice shelters as well. Are there other locations where a shelter is needed? Probably. Somewhere along the route from Burntside to Vermilion it would be nice for people to have a place to stop and for the female riders, a place to go to the bathroom would likely be greatly appreciated. Shelters are trail amenities. Not required but they add to the experience and help give a trail its own feel. Another trail amenity are trailhead facilities, something Ely is lacking. Right here we have two major snowmobile trails and the Mesabi Trail that start from here and head off into the woods. But there is no central point to start from. No place to park your vehicle and/or trailer. No place to meet your group or check maps or use a bathroom.That’s not to say there is a no-brainer site or funding ready to build such a facility, but it is something that could be created down the road. Once the Mesabi Trail connection to Tower and on to the Virginia area is made, we will see a great need for a place for people to buy trail passes, rent bicycles and so on. The Mesabi Trail will be a new attraction when it is completed to Tower and will likely be the most scenic stretch of the summer trail system from Ely to Grand Rapids. This same trailhead could be a natural point for the beginning of the Taconite and Tomahawk trails that span in either direction east and west, from Grand Rapids to Lake Superior.Throw in the need and inevitability for ATV trails here and hopefully the Wellstone Tamarack Trail from Ely to Crane Lake one day and you can see we have the need for a trail center. I was asked last week if the Pioneer Mine could serve in this type of capacity should the historic site be developed for public use.Maybe, but we should look at all options here. And there may not be a perfect site to put everything together but the process might help solve some problems that have already cropped up.First and foremost is parking for snowmobilers with trucks and large trailers. With snowbanks already eating up space, finding room to park a four-wheel drive extended cab pick-up and a four-place snowmobile trailer around here can be quite a challenge.And combining snowmobiles, ATVs, bicycles and other trail users in one central location may or may not be a good idea. What about skiers? Should this facility also involve the Hidden Valley ski trail system? Babbitt is already grappling with how to handle the increasing number of people who come to ride ATVs from there to Mattila’s Shelter. So put your thinking helmets on and see if there is some thing or some place that would make sense. Then of course we’d need to work on getting funding, but let’s just take one step down the trail at a time.

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