Ely, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) --- In just a few short years, Minnesota will have yet another state park to draw tourists to Northern Minnesota.
Crews broke ground today for the Lake Vermillion State Park near Ely as they begin construction on Minnesota's first major state park in 30 years.
The 70-site campground will soon have many unique features to draw tourists to Northern Minnesota such as tree houses, an "adventure trail" with a rope course and a paved bike route that will connect to the Mesabi Trail.
The new state park will also include boat docks, fishing platforms, picnic shelters, roads and parking areas.
Construction on the first phase of the state park is expected to take about 2 years.
Future phases of construction, pending funding, will include a visitor center, trail system and group camp, as well as hike-in and boat-in campsites. A Heritage Center, featuring the history of mining in the area, is planned at Soudan Underground Mine State Park.
Construction on other phases of the state park could take about six years before completion.
In 2008, the Minnesota Legislature authorized Lake Vermilion State Park and set aside $20 million in bonding to purchase, plan and develop it. The purchase agreement for the 3,000-acre property was signed in May 2010, and a master plan for the park was developed with the public's help.
Some funding for the new park facilities will come from the Parks and Trails Fund, created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008.
The park has been open since 2010 for recreation opportunities such as hiking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and geocaching.
Interpretive staff at Soudan Underground Mine State Park have offered occasional programs at Lake Vermilion State Park, including a BioBlitz that involved citizens in the identification of plants, animals and insects at the park.
Posted to the web by Krista Burns