The Ranger - Sept. 20

department of iron range resources and rehabilitation

The Ranger 

Sept. 20, 2023

Forum highlights new housing grant program and available resources

Commissioner Ida Rukavina and Commissioner Jennifer Ho

About 100 individuals attended either in-person or virtually at the recent Housing Resources Forum hosted by Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation. Representatives from the region’s cities, townships, counties, tribal governments and nonprofits gathered on Thursday, Sept. 7 at the Mineland Reclamation building in Chisholm (or via Zoom) to learn about technical and financial housing resources.

Presenters included Commissioner Ida Rukavina and Community Development Director Whitney Ridlon from Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation, Commissioner Jennifer Ho from Minnesota Housing and Harlan Buckalew from Minnesota Housing Partnership. (Pictured are Commissioner Rukavina and Commissioner Ho.)

“The turnout from our local communities was tremendous. It was an excellent opportunity to learn about our agency’s housing resources and those offered by Minnesota Housing,” said Rukavina. “The regional housing shortage  is a critical economic issue. The need for additional and more choices of housing in northeastern Minnesota impacts employers, employees, municipalities, families, school districts, seniors and new and existing residents.”

Housing Resources Forum

Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation dedicated $5 million for a new Housing grant that will accept applications beginning Nov. 1. The grants will assist projects or programs that result in the creation of new housing units or the rehabilitation of existing housing units. Examples include but are not limited to construction of new housing on vacant land, construction of new housing on redeveloped land, repurposing non-residential buildings for residential use, rehabilitating existing single-family and multi-family housing and funding for housing trust funds or programming to support local workforce housing initiatives. Eligible applicants include cities, townships, counties, nonprofits, tribal governments and governmental entities located within the agency’s service area.

Learn about the agency's new Housing grant program.

Email Whitney Ridlon or call her at 218-735-3004 for Housing grant information.

Photos courtesy of Minnesota Housing.

Len Hardy Memorial ATV Trail opens in Nashwauk

Len Hardy Memorial ATV Trail

A nine-mile, twenty-foot-wide ATV trail connecting the city of Nashwauk to the Alborn-Pengilly Railroad Trail officially opened last month. The new Len Hardy Memorial ATV Trail was named after a Nashwauk man who was an ATV and motorized recreation advocate and an Army Veteran. The trail is also the newly re-routed Nashwauk Snowmobile Trail. Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation supported the project with Regional Trails grants totaling $105,500 to Itasca County Land Department. Total project investment was $311,500.

Hardy passed away in 2018 and left a long record of service to his nation and local community. He served on the board of the All-Terrain Vehicle Association of Minnesota, was president of the Itasca County ATV Alliance and helped create 19 ATV clubs throughout the region. For his role as a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Trail Ambassador, Hardy promoted ATV education and safe riding, especially among youth. During that time, the DNR named him their Volunteer ATV Safety Training Instructor of the Year. He was a licensed contractor who built and maintained numerous roads and trails in northern Minnesota, including the development of the first two ATV trails in Itasca County. Hardy served 22 years in the Army National Guard as a member of the 47th Aviation Battalion.

Len Hardy Memorial Trail Dedication

To celebrate the opening of the new trail, Range Riders ATV Club hosted a dedication ceremony on August 23 at the Nashwauk Veterans Memorial Park. Nearly 60 people attended the event including Hardy’s two children and his granddaughter. Following the dedication, the attendees rode to the sign at the new trail for a ribbon cutting and then headed out on the trail.

“Nashwauk was not previously linked to a trail system, so the new nine-mile stretch of trail is a very important connector,” said Sara Thompson, Forest Recreation Specialist with Itasca County Land Department. “The trail traverses through forest and crosses a 260-foot boardwalk. Riders have a scenic view of Blue Lake and may access views of Hawkins and LaRue Mine Pits within the city limits of Nashwauk.”

 Len Hardy Memorial ATV Trail

Thompson explained that the amount of ATV trails and riders has increased in Itasca County and in Minnesota. The result has been an increase of local and visiting riders as more trails have developed throughout the region, which means a positive impact to local communities and the economy.

Project partners included All-Terrain Vehicle Association of Minnesota, Community and Economic Development Associates, city of Nashwauk, Itasca County ATV Alliance, Itasca County Board of Commissioners, Itasca Snowmobile Alliance, Itasca Trails Taskforce, Lawron Trail Riders Snowmobile Club, Lone Pine Township, , Mesabi Metallics Company, MNDNR Parks and Trails Division, Minnesota State GIA Program, Polaris Industries, Range Riders ATV Club, Rays Sport and Cycle, United States Steel Corporation, UPM Blandin, Visit Grand Rapids, Yamaha Corporation, Inc. and local volunteers.

Email Jim Plummer or call him at 218-274-7006 for Regional Trails grant information.

Cuyuna school develops mountain bike trail and outdoor learning area

Cuyuna Range Elementary School Trail

A beginner mountain bike trail and learning space was completed last month on the Cuyuna Range Elementary School (CRES) grounds, providing Crosby area youth the opportunity to develop mountain biking skills. The trail will also be used for preschool through 6th grade students to hike, snowshoe and cross country run. Teachers and students may utilize the trail as an outdoor classroom for studying nature, bird and animal watching. The trail is also open to community members. Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation supported the project with a $43,200 Regional Trails grant to the city of Crosby. Total project investment is estimated at $86,400.

The school’s biking program began several years ago when two CRES teachers set a goal to provide biking to students at the school and within the Cuyuna community. Clayton Lang and Lori Vosacek raised approximately $38,000 through grants and donations to purchase a fleet of 40 mountain bikes and a trailer so that third through sixth grade students could be taught basic biking and mountain biking skills. The bikes were initially utilized in physical education class on the school’s baseball and football fields. The fleet was also utilized for a free summer mountain bike camp, Range Riders. The idea was soon conceived to build a multi-purpose trail on school property to continue the biking program’s momentum.

Cuyuna Range Elementary School Trail

The school is located near the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area (CCSRA) which is spread across 800 acres surrounding reclaimed mining lands. There are 50 miles of mountain bike trails with scenic vistas.

“We live in an amazing community where people come from all around the state and region to enjoy our trails,” said Lang. “The school trail and learning area allows us to teach students how to bike safely with the proper equipment before accessing other trails the area has to offer. We are also able to introduce students to an activity they can participate in for life.”

Cuyuna Range Elementary School Trail

Lang explained that learning to maintain trails as a community resource is necessary to enrich the Cuyuna area as a mountain bike destination. The trail experience being provided at the school gives students a greater understanding of trail stewardship.

“The community support for this project was tremendous,” said Lang. “We were able to create an awesome space to teach mountain bike skills to students in our Cuyuna community. The kids are also learning about something that is very central to our region’s economy.”

Cuyuna Range Elementary School Trail

Other project partners included Cuyuna Regional Medical Center, Red Raven, Deerwood Bank, Cuyuna Lakes Education Foundation, Anderson Brothers, Holmvig Excavating, Emily Fire, CRES PTO, National Sealant & Concrete, Garrison Commercial Club, Clayton and Camille Lang, Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike CREW, Deerwood Firemen’s Relief, Will and Ellen Hoeg, Consolidated Telephone Company, Cuyuna Range Lions Club, CRES Class of 2030, Cykel, Hudson 218, KK Advertising Inc. and Dianna Lodermeier.

Email Jim Plummer or call him at 218-274-7006 for Regional Trails grant information.

Knife River restores historic fish tug to recognize the North Shore’s commercial fishing industry and its fishing families

Knife River Heritage & Cultural Center

A new commercial fishing exhibit was added at the Knife River Heritage & Cultural Center (KRHCC) this summer. A 35-foot gas-powered fish tug that fished out of Knife River for many years, the Crusader II, was restored and is on display along with five weather-proof interpretive displays. The fish tug was gifted by the Lake County Historical Society. From the early 1990s until gifted to the KRHCC, the boat was on Lighthouse Point in Two Harbors as a visitor attraction but had fallen into disrepair.

The new exhibit traces the history of Lake Superior’s North Shore commercial fishing back to the early 1600s when Europeans began trading for furs and fish with Native Americans. Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation supported the project with a $30,000 Downtown Streetscapes grant. Total project investment was $68,700.

Crusader II rests on its cradle on a 26 by 48-foot slab with an ADA-compliant viewing deck that allows visitors to see its interior. Five, two by three-foot interpretive displays are mounted on the viewing deck. They chronologically describe Knife River’s Native American presence, the arrival of Europeans (mostly Scandinavians), history of Crusader II and how commercial fishing shaped the character of Knife River. A shelter over the boat and the viewing deck with its displays will be built next spring.

Knife River Heritage & Cultural Center

According to Lake County Historical Society, Crusader II was built in 1939 and christened by Crown Prince Olav of Norway during his visit to the North Shore that same year. The boat was built by Reuben and Helmer Hill of nearby Larsmont, Minn., owned by Carl Erickson of Knife River and used until 1953 for harvesting trout and herring. It was later used for charter fishing.

In addition to Crusader II, KRHCC is home to the historic Knife River train depot and the Viking ship Leif Erickson. The depot’s exterior and interior were previously restored to make it a fully functioning 1900s depot and open to the public. A previous Cultural & Tourism grant from Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation helped rebuild the depot.

The Leif Erickson was in Duluth’s Leif Erikson Park for more than 90 years before the city gifted it to a non-profit that relocated it to the KRHCC in 2021. Restoration on the Viking ship will begin next spring.

Knife River Heritage & Cultural Center Depot

“The preservation of the three historic icons will create a significant North Shore historical and educational attraction,” said Paul von Goertz, KRHCC president. “The center is committed to preserving the past so that people, especially younger generations, can learn about the history of Knife River and the commercial fisherman of Lake Superior. Our region’s history has shaped our communities and people today, and it is vital that we understand it and cherish it so that it does not fade away.”

A number of visitors to the KRHCC arrive by train on the North Shore Scenic Railroad. Upon arrival, guests may tour the depot and boats. Adjacent to the depot area is a large agate beach where people can hunt for the official state gemstone as designated by the Minnesota Legislature in 1969.

Knife River Heritage & Cultural Center

The Knife River community is in Lake County along the North Shore Scenic Drive of Lake Superior between Duluth and Two Harbors. The township of 230 people is at the mouth of the 23.9-mile-long Knife River which drains into Lake Superior. The community’s name is speculated to have been given by the Ojibwe Native Americans due to the long, sharp stones in the river.

Other project partners included the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation and Lake Country Power & Light.

Beginning last year, the Downtown Streetscapes grant merged with the Culture & Tourism grant and has a fiscal year budget of $600,000. Email Danae Beaudette or call her at 218-735-3022 for Culture & Tourism grant information.

Virginia Market Square adds performing arts venue

Virginia Market Square Band Shelter

The Virginia Market Square farmers market added a wood band shelter and concert stage that will host performances during the market hours and at other special events. The new performing arts venue has electricity and lighting to accommodate a variety of local musicians and entertainers. Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation supported the project with a $2,500 Culture & Tourism grant to Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability. Total project investment was $7,500.

Market Square is in its eighth season and operates May through October out of the city-owned Kline-Cuppoletti Park Facility on Silver Lake in the heart of Virginia. Area farmers and artisans sell locally grown fruits, vegetables, eggs, meats, canned goods and wild rice, along with homemade roasted nuts, coffee, baked goods, bug repellant, crafts and soaps. The new band shelter is located at the south end of the facility, and there are benches in the shade for audience members and market shoppers.

Virginia Market Square Concert Area

“The project enhanced the park area on Silver Lake and created an additional amenity at this historic site in Virginia,” said Marlise Riffel, Virginia Market manager. “Farmers markets add to the quality of life in our community by strengthening agricultural economic development, fostering social gathering, and providing access to fresh locally grown foods.”

Other project partners included Altobelli Peterson Construction, Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency, Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, Iron Range Original Music Association, Olcott Park BrewFest, Seppi Brothers Concrete, Virginia Community Foundation, Virginia Elks Lodge #1003, Virginia Parks and Recreation and private donors.

Virginia Market Square

Virginia Market Square is open Thursday afternoons May through October from 2:30 to 6 p.m.

Learn more about Virginia Market Square.

Email Danae Beaudette or call her at 218-735-3022 for Culture & Tourism grant information.

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. The agency's grants and loans are funded through taxes paid by Minnesota’s mining industry.