On Tuesday, the state of Minnesota finalized an $18 million deal with U.S. Steel to acquire 3,000 acres along Lake Vermilion in northeast Minnesota for the state's first park in 30 years.
The Department of Natural Resources will now begin to develop the park's facilities, like roads, trails, visitor centers, and campgrounds. It will take several years to complete construction of the park--and a significant investment of money--but the DNR said that the park may be open for limited day-use activities by the end of this summer.
The new park will include five miles of shoreline on one of Minnesota's premiere recreation and fishing lakes. Combined with the neighboring Soudan Mine State Park, there will be 10 miles of contiguously-proteced and publicly-accessible shoreline on the lake.
Lake Vermilion--40,000 acres and containing 368 islands and 340 miles of shoreline--also borders the Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.The new park--and its anticipated 400,000 annual visitors--is expected to bring significant economic benefits to surrounding communities, including the town of Tower.
If the state had not acquired the land and created the park, the site was expected to have been developed into private vacation homes.
The journey to create the park was something of a roller-coaster, with the state and the seller having difficulty agreeing on a price, and difficult decisions in the legislature during tight state budget times.
The next phase may prove as difficult as the acquisition phase, though. Significant funds are expected to be necessary to create what has been called "Minnesota's first 21st-century park." DNR Commission Mark Holsten has stated that he anticipates the park construction to cost up to $30 million.
The new park is expected to be one of Minnesota's most popular destinations, on the same level as Lake Itasca or Gooseberry Falls.