It’s been an eventful year for the proposed Lake Vermilion Trail. A joint powers board was recently created to develop, own and manage the planned 40-mile, paved trail in northern St. Louis County, Minn. And in February 2018 they held their first official meeting. This new board is essentially a new local government unit with one purpose: the trail. This may be the largest trail-related Joint Powers Board in the country. Five townships, two cities and the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa’s tribal government joined together to build the trail in order to provide a recreational opportunity for local residents, and to increase the area’s attractiveness for tourists. The proposed trail has already generated excitement due to its proposed location near one of Minnesota’s largest lakes, and through beautifully scenic boreal forests that have been largely inaccessible.
In March, the board submitted its first application for trail development funds from the State’s Legislative & Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources. In April the board adopted a master plan, after holding three public meetings in the local communities. In July, the Greater Minnesota Regional Park and Trail Commission designated it as a “regionally significant trail,” which enables it to qualify for funding through the state’s Legacy Amendment funds. In July, the Board submitted an application for Legacy funding to develop the first 4.6 miles of trail. In the meantime the Board has been setting itself up as a new government entity, increasing public awareness of the project, and raising funds.
National Park Service, Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program staff Holly Larson has assisted the project over the last three years, helping with monthly meeting facilitation, development of the Joint Powers Agreement, trail planning, organizational development, master plan development, community engagement and grantwriting. Due to its exemplary partnership work in coordinating a large project with eight government entities, in September the National Park Service’s Midwest Region RTCA Program presented the Board with a Partner Award. This award has only been given to a select few of the RTCA program’s partners throughout the Midwest Region. Although RTCA wrapped up their official involvement in the Lake Vermilion Trail project in September, the Joint Powers Board has the capacity and dedication to see the project through. It is well on its way to having the first segment of trail on the ground within the next few years.