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With the environmental planning process already underway, organizers of the proposed Prospectors Loop Trail System are hoping that construction on the new 130-mile loop trail can begin this year.


At a well-attended meeting in Tower last week, committee members discussed the planning progress to date, and the future funding that will be required to bring the project to completion.


The new trail will connect Ely, Babbitt, Embarrass, Tower, along with Bear Head and Lake Vermilion State Parks. The trail will also tie in with existing trail systems that connect to the North Shore. The trail will be open for both Class 1 and 2 ATVs (single rider or larger side-by-sides), off-highway motorcycles, and some sections will be open for off-road trucks as well as horseback riders.


Ron Potter, who worked for the DNR Trails and Waterways division before his recent retirement, has been spearheading the planning effort, along with a committee of individuals representing local ATV interests.


Potter said the group secured initial funding mostly thanks to a concerted effort from former Rep. David Dill. With the initial funding, they have conducted mapping and begun the environmental review process, that is expected to be completed by this summer.


Potter said the group has strong support from local legislators, local communities, and statewide OHV groups and manufacturers. The project has included cooperation between St. Louis County, the DNR, and U.S. Forest Service. In addition, they have been working with more-established ATV groups that have trails already in place.


“It all has to come together at the same time,” Potter said. “We have great support. I think the stars are aligned and it may happen this year.”


Potter noted he has never worked on a project where there has been so much support and cooperation from other governmental units.


“It’s been a treat,” he said.


The project is included in this year’s bonding bill, now under consideration at the state capital.

Total costs for the project are estimated to be a little over $3.2 million, with a finished trail length of 280 miles. Two hundred miles of the trail would be set onto existing roads or logging roads. There would be 21 miles of new trail construction (mostly eight-foot width), plus a little over three miles of trail that will need to be constructed in wetland areas. Some new bridges will be required, and one highway rated bridge to accommodate logging equipment.


Whether or not the House and Senate can come to agreement on a bonding bill in this year’s shortened session is still up for question, but if they do, Potter said, they would be ready to start working on the trail in the fall.


“If we don’t get bonding this year,” he said, “we will be spinning our wheels for a while.”

Once the trail is completed, the group will be able to apply for grant-in-aid funding to pay for ongoing maintenance and expenses.


Potter said the group has other sources of funding to apply for, but at this point in time, state bonding was the best bet to jumpstart the project. Once the initial loop system is in place, the group hopes to add additional loops with trails built specifically for off-road motorcycles and off-road vehicles.


The new trail is expected to bring ATV enthusiasts to the area, especially in the slower seasons of fall and spring. The trail, much of which would be through heavily wooded areas, would provide a variety of riding experiences.


“This is a trail that will bring people to our area,” said committee President Nick Wognum. “It will help local businesses in the off-season.”


The group has opened a temporary trail between Tower and Embarrass.


More information on the project is available online at The newly-formed ATV Propsectors Loop Alliance is seeking new members. Memberships are $25 for individuals, $30 for families, and $50 for businesses, and include an annual subscription to the Minnesota Off-Road Magazine and membership in the All Terrain Vehicle Association of Minnesota. For more information, email Or Click to download form Here


Story by Jodi Summit ~ Timberjay Newspaper ~