by T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol reporter
Gov. Tim Pawlenty believes it will be one of the most spectacular state parks in the United States.
Pawlenty announced the State of Minnesota and U.S. Steel had reached an agreement on the sale of 3,000 acres of land on the eastern shore of Lake Vermilion for a new state park.
If finalized this spring, Lake Vermilion State Park will be the first new major state park in Minnesota in about 30 years.
The sales price was $18 million.
Pawlenty called the new state park a “fantastic amenity.”
Adjacent to Soudan Underground Mine State Park, the proposed state park would be located just south of the Superior National Forest and Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
It would feature five miles of shoreline and public access to Lake Vermilion — its 365 islands and 40,000 acres of water.
State officials speak of the lake as “iconic.”
An exciting day
Department of Natural Resources Commissioner (DNR) Mark Holsten called it “an exciting day.”
The U.S. Steel land is the last big chunk of prized land in the state owned by a single owner, he explained.
Although proposed for limited access, DNR officials point to mid-to-late summer of 2011 as an opening date for the park.
It’s estimated a park center, roads, shoreline work, group camping sites, and other work could cost between $25 million to $30 million.
The deal is not finalized.
Lawmakers this legislative session need to change language in state law pertaining to land appraisals.
Current law does not allow land purchases in excess of 12 percent above appraised price for land, explained Holsten.
An art form, not a science
The Lake Vermilion land purchase would puncture the cap. “It’s an art form. It’s not a science,” said Holsten of appraisals.
There are different ways of appraising, he said.
Pawlenty indicated that if the deal with U.S. Steel is not finalized this spring, the company will develop the 3,000 acres.
Besides the sales price, no other considerations were included in the agreement, said Holsten.
The state does have other business dealings with U.S. Steel, but none of these were linked to the proposed land sale, he said.
“Totally stand alone items,” said Holsten.
Negotiations with the steel company were protracted.
At times they were broken off.
To view a slideshow of the proposed site, go to the DNR website at