The Ranger - Aug. 5

department of iron range resources and rehabilitation

The Ranger 

Aug. 5, 2020

Split Rock Wild mountain bike trail anticipates high usage and economic impact

Split Rock Wild mountain bike trail

A new 12-mile stretch of purpose-built, single track mountain bike trail and a multi-use trailhead will open next year along the North Shore, between Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and Beaver Bay. The project is the first of multiple phases that when fully completed will create 50 miles of trail with beginner to expert skill levels. Historic logging use of the land is visible and will provide for interpretive opportunities along the trail.

The trails are part of the Lake County Trail System amidst the wilderness and within 1.5 miles of Lake Superior providing numerous views of the world’s largest fresh water lake. Lake County Forestry Department is developing the Split Rock Wilds trail, and Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation supported the project with a Regional Trails grant.

The Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is expanding its campground, a project being led by the Minnesota DNR. The campground will serve as a starting point for the new mountain bike trail that when built out, will connect to Gitchi-Gami Trail, a paved bike trail that starts at Gooseberry State Park and ends in Silver Bay.

Split Rock Wild mountain bike trail

“Recreational spending is a major contributor to the North Shore economy,” said Nate Eide, Lake County land commissioner. “Parks and trails are key to attracting new families and workers to the region, retaining retirees and drawing short and extended tourist visits.”

Based on the use of northeastern Minnesota’s other trail systems such as Cuyuna Lakes Recreation Area in Crosby, Lake County anticipates 22,000 riders annually will use the Lake County Trails. A majority of users are expected to be from outside Lake County, many from Duluth which is an hour away and has a large rider base.

“The grant from Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation helped us create a riding experience that is extremely unique not only for Minnesota and the Midwest, but in the nation,” said Eide. “Bikers here can cruise through a forested 850-foot ridgeline above Lake Superior. It’s a riding experience that can have a huge economic impact to our region.”

Split Rock Wild mountain bike trail

Other Split Rock Trail funding partners include Minnesota DNR’s Lake Superior Coastal Program and the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission. Local private donors include One Track Mind Foundation, Castle Danger Brewery, Spoken Gear Bike Shop and Heck of the North Productions.

For Regional Trails grant information email Jim Plummer or call him at 218-274-7006.

Photos courtesy of Pete Stone.

Business Energy Retrofit grant provides solar power to local lodging

Green Gate Collage

Green Gate Guest Houses near Giants Ridge in Biwabik utilized a Business Energy Retrofit (BER) grant to help install a solar photovoltaic (PV) system. The output of a 48-panel 16kW system is offsetting nearly 100% of the electrical usage for the four homes on the Green Gate campus.

The solar panels absorb and convert sunlight into electricity. About 90kW are produced per day which is three times the amount the four homes need for their daily operations. The excess energy is transferred back to the grid where it is banked for Green Gate’s future use, primarily for the winter months when energy consumption is higher and daylight hours are reduced.

Green Gate Proprietor Shawn Callahan pooled several funding sources for the solar project. He utilized the BER grant which is funded by Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation and administered through a partnership with Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency (AEOA). It paid for 1/3 of the project or up to $20,000. Callahan funded the remainder of the project through MinnPACE financing from the Saint Paul Port Authority. PACE financing (Property Assessed Clean Energy) is available to commercial building owners. The loan is repaid with payments through a special property tax assessment over the course of 20 years. The first payment is not due for one year, allowing the business to reap the financial rewards for the first twelve months. Minnesota Power an ALLETE Company accepted Callahan’s grid-tied project into its SolarSense program which pays customers rebates and incentives calculated on the kW it produces.

“The availability of local support to install the solar panels was beyond my expectations,” said Callahan. “It made my goal of becoming solar-powered far more attainable. We are excited to take another big step towards our mission of sustainability at Green Gate.”

Green Gate Guest Houses are vacation rentals primarily used by the guests at Giants Ridge including golfers, skiers, mountain bikers and wedding event attendees. Callahan began developing the property nearly 20 years ago. He purchased the 13-acre Slovenian farmstead that was once the site of a turn-of-the-century iron mining town and transformed it into a unique lodging facility. Travel writer Eric Hart of Golf Getaways has visited over 168 resorts and hotels, and he called Green Gate one of the five best places he has ever stayed. Green Gate has been featured in The Minnesota Traveler, Minnesota Monthly, Laketime Magazine, Better Homes & Gardens and Cabin Living Magazine.

Click here to watch Shawn Callahan’s video about his solar project. Click here to view Green Gate’s solar real-time performance numbers.

Since BER’s inception in 2013, 285 grants have been awarded to help small businesses with energy efficiency upgrades that can result in reduced utility bills, improved building aesthetics and increased building life. For BER information email Vince Meyer at AEOA or call him at 218-735-6828. For MinnPACE information email Peter Klein at Saint Paul Port Authority or call him at 651-204-6211.

Grants available to ramp up broadband in northeastern Minnesota


Fast, reliable and affordable broadband access in northeastern Minnesota is an economic necessity for businesses, homes, schools and communities. Currently most of northeastern Minnesota is considered either unserved or underserved by broadband service (view state broadband map). Grant applications are being accepted by Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation for projects that help overcome the most significant barrier, which is the high cost of deploying broadband infrastructure to rural communities.


by DEED’s Office of Broadband Development (OBD)

This grant can provide up to 50% of a project’s infrastructure costs (project planning, permits, construction plant and labor, installation and testing, engineering, etc.). The maximum grant amount is $5 million. The smallest project awarded to-date funded the deployment of broadband infrastructure to 12 locations, and the largest projects have funded deployment to thousands of locations. Click here for grant details.

Success stories: Below are projects that recently used this grant to expand broadband in the Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation service area, and the agency was instrumental in their progress either through gap funding or community facilitation.

  • Bois Forte Tribal Government (Nett Lake, Palmquist, Indian Point and Vermilion): $1.2 million.
  • Emily Cooperative Telephone Company (Esquagamah Lake and Round Lake areas of Aitkin County): $376,000.
  • Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative (Farm Island and Nordland Townships in Aitkin County): $1.2 million.
  • Paul Bunyan Communications - North Central Minnesota (Leech Lake Indian Reservation and rural portions of Cass, Itasca, Koochiching, and St. Louis counties): $2.5 million.
  • SCI Broadband (Glen Township in Aitkin County): $195,848.

Key Dates: Pre-applications due Aug. 19. Final applications due Sept.30. (Pre-application notification is required by Aug. 19. Potential providers seeking a grant must notify incumbent providers of their intent to serve an area.)

Contact: Call 651-259-7610 or email


by Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation

The grant is open to cities, townships, tribal units of government and nonprofits located within the agency's service area. Projects funded include those that take households or businesses from unserved or underserved to service levels meeting the 2026 State of Minnesota Speed Goal of 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload. This grant funding can serve as local matching dollars for projects that leverage it for larger federal, state or private investment. Click here for grant guidelines.

Success story: Bois Forte Tribal Government used a Community Infrastructure grant to construct a fiber to the home buildout for its bandmembers in the Bois Forte Reservation. Bois Forte was awarded a $579,000 Community Infrastructure grant and used it as local matching dollars to apply for a $1.2 million Border to Border grant from DEED. The advancement in broadband will allow bandmembers to telework, children to access online learning, health care clinics to provide virtual medicine, and home-based businesses to compete and grow.

Key dates: This grant is currently open and funded at $7.5 million for the fiscal year. Grants are competitive and awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Contact: Email Whitney Ridlon or call her at 218-735-3004.

Ely makes chamber and visitor center handicap accessible

Ely Chamber of Commerce

The Ely Chamber of Commerce added a handicap-accessible ramp and entryway into its building that serves as a community information hub for local businesses and visitors. Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation supported the project with a Culture & Tourism grant through taxes paid by Minnesota’s mining industry.

The community’s economy includes wildlife and historical attractions, outdoor recreation, retail shopping, dining and entertainment, healthcare and a variety of professional services. Ely is the entry point to the world's premier lakeland wilderness area and is considered to be the "Canoe Capital of the World." National Geographic designated the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness as one of the world's "Top 50" scenic places that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.

The Ely Chamber of Commerce attracts thousands of visitors each year seeking community information. The new ramp and entry enables the community to welcome handicapped guests and makes visitor and business information accessible for all.

Local contractors were used to complete the project including Rock Country Masonry, Huisman Concepts Inc., and former Bare Bones Studio Owner Ellen Cashman. For Culture & Tourism grant information email Danae Beaudette for grant information or call her at 218-735-3022.

Home improvement finance option for low-income homeowners in northeastern Minnesota

Housing Improvements

The Rehabilitation Loan Program (RLP) helps low-income homeowners finance home repair projects that directly affect the home’s safety, livability, energy efficiency and accessibility. Examples of projects may include:

  • Electrical wiring.
  • Furnace or boiler replacement.
  • Windows and doors.
  • Siding and roofing.
  • Plumbing.
  • Septic system upgrades.
  • Water heater.
  • Mold and radon mitigation.
  • Lead-based paint hazards.

The financing is a deferred loan up to $27,000 to homeowners who are unable to secure home improvement financing in the private sector. The loan term is up to 15 years and may be forgiven if the owner does not sell, transfer title, or cease to occupy the property during the loan term.

RLP is program by Minnesota Housing, a state agency that works with local lenders to provide affordable home improvement loans. Click here for more information, or email Tonya Taylor at Minnesota Housing or call her at 651-296-8844.

Grant opportunities to strengthen northeastern Minnesota

Mining Logo

Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation invests resources to foster vibrant growth and economic prosperity in northeastern Minnesota. Below are two grant opportunities:


Downtown Streetscapes - Designed to incentivize investment in downtown areas by promoting safe and attractive environments for residents, shoppers, workers and visitors. Applications due by Aug. 31.


Culture & Tourism - Assist nonprofits by supporting strong arts, culture, heritage and recreational activities to enhance the quality of life in the region and attract visitors. Applications accepted Sept. 1 - 30.

Eligible applicants in our service area are encouraged to apply for one or more grants. Click here to learn more and view grant guidelines. Click here to access the grant application portal (FLUXX).

Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation funds its grants through taxes paid by Minnesota’s mining industry.

The Ranger is a publication of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation. Our mission is to invest resources to foster vibrant growth and economic prosperity in northeastern Minnesota.