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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

A day on the trail

Pandemic doesn’t dampen enthusiasm for annual ATV gathering

Keith Vandervort
Posted 9/23/20

REGIONAL – ATV riders from all over the state and beyond took to the trails around Ely and the surrounding woods last weekend as part of ATV Minnesota’s Fall Ride and Rally.The local …

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A day on the trail

Pandemic doesn’t dampen enthusiasm for annual ATV gathering

Posted

REGIONAL – ATV riders from all over the state and beyond took to the trails around Ely and the surrounding woods last weekend as part of ATV Minnesota’s Fall Ride and Rally.
The local Prospector ATV Club hosted this year’s event, toned down a bit due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that didn’t stop hundreds of riders from participating in as many as a dozen guided rides.
The weekend kicked off Friday with a pancake breakfast outside at Timber Hall, followed by a VIP ride from Embarrass to Tower that included an outdoor catered lunch at McKinley Park overlooking Lake Vermilion. Later that day, the city of Ely hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its trailhead project. On Saturday, ATV riders hit many of the area trails for a handful of guided tours.
The rides and events were part of the annual convention of the ATV Association of Minnesota, or ATVAM.
COVID-19 forced the Prospector Club to scale back on some event activities, but they will get a reboot next fall when the state convention returns to Ely.
Rod Potter, president of ATV Minnesota, welcomed riders and guests at McKinley Park in Tower.
“Our legislators and local officials all worked to make this happen,” he said, as he introduced U.S. Rep Pete Stauber.
“These trails take a lot of behind-the-scenes work by many folks,” he said. “One of the things we need is continued funding and I assure you that funding from the federal level will be there. This is how we recreate in northern Minnesota.”
He also noted that riders from all over the state and other parts of the country were present for the convention.
“When I talk about fighting for our way of life, this is the love we have for northern Minnesota,” he said.
A parade of politicians and community leaders took the microphone. State Sen. Tom Bakk spoke of the importance of the interconnecting tail systems, including for bicycle riders, snowmobilers, hikers and ATV’ers, in northern Minnesota.
“My first snowmobile was a 1964 Scorpion, and back then there were at least two sleds in every yard,” he said. “Pretty soon they disappeared because there was no place to ride. We went through a long period of time when snowmobile registrations just fell off a cliff.”
Volunteers, including those from the Cook Timberwolf Club that was chartered in 1965, began building trail systems, according to Bakk
“All those clubs were really responsible for bringing snowmobiling back to what it is today,” he said.
“That won’t happen here with ATVs because this time, you guys are in front of the decline by providing places for people to ride,” Bakk said. “We have a system of old logging roads up north that are pretty spectacular.”
Bakk noted that that he is authoring legislation to get ATVs allowed in Minnesota’s state park system.
“I need some help from some of my friends in the legislature to get that passed,” he said.
He spoke of acreage set aside at the nearby Lake Vermilion Park for a new ATV campground to be located on the other side of Highway 169 across from the park entrance. “There is a provision in this year’s bonding bill for about $5.8 million to build that campground,” Bakk said. “It will be the first of its kind in the state where ATV’ers can come and camp and connect to all the trails to Ely, Crane Lake and elsewhere.”
Bakk boasted that his first ATV, a 1982 Honda Big Red model, is still running.
“It was a Cadillac. It had electric start. I still have it. It was the best piece of equipment I ever bought,” he said.

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