Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Bakk weighs in on planned Vermilion Trail

Says concerns focus on logging access, not hunting camp

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 2/22/18

LAKE VERMILION— Sen. Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, is dismissing suggestions that he’s opposed to a planned Cook-to-Tower bike trail over its possible impact to a hunting camp he’s used …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Bakk weighs in on planned Vermilion Trail

Says concerns focus on logging access, not hunting camp

Posted

LAKE VERMILION— Sen. Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, is dismissing suggestions that he’s opposed to a planned Cook-to-Tower bike trail over its possible impact to a hunting camp he’s used for decades. The hunting camp, located just west of the Frazer Bay, is surrounded by hundreds of acres of public land, which trail backers had hoped might be accessible for their proposed trail system.

Obtaining recreational trail easements on public lands in the region has typically been easier than obtaining such rights from a large number of private landowners, but some St. Louis County officials have proven resistant to the proposed Lake Vermilion Trail. Some trail supporters have seen Bakk as playing a role in the county’s reluctance to support the trail.

Bakk acknowledged he has concerns about the proposal, but says they’re unrelated to the potential impact to his hunting property now that the trail planners have assured him they have no intention of using eminent domain to obtain easements for the project.

Bakk said he’s concerned that the trail could prompt users to lobby for a halt to logging along the corridor. “We just had a huge fight over a timber sale off of Burntside Lake,” Bakk said, referencing the controversy over a timber harvest along a portion of the North Arm ski and hiking trails. “I don’t want to put another trail through the middle of the woods that will impact timber sales,” he said.

Bakk noted that the potential trail corridor includes a significant amount of county-managed forest land, which is one reason he thinks the county has been cool to the plan to date. “I think it’s a pretty significant issue,” he said.

“That’s pretty much the same thing he told us,” said Carol Booth, one of the early organizers of the trail plan. Booth, who retired from the U.S. Forest Service, said she thinks Sen. Bakk might be stereotyping bike trail users as anti-logging. “I don’t think it’s fair to assume that,” she said, noting that local residents, who are used to timber management, would likely provide a lot of the trail use. Booth, who used to explain the need for timber management to the public as part of her former job, said she thinks logging could be an educational theme for the trail. She said many of the concerns that might arise over logging along the trail could be addressed through vista management, which was frequently used by the Forest Service to mitigate the visual impacts of logging in high traffic areas.

Bakk said he would prefer to see trail planners focus on using existing road corridors, such as Hwys. 24 and 115, which would likely be easier to develop than trying to push through a trail closer to the lake.

Booth said she personally isn’t opposed to using some road right-of-ways, where alternatives aren’t available, but she said the planning committee strongly prefers a more scenic route. “Our first preference is to look for willing landowners, and make it as scenic as possible off the road. My personal opinion is we’ll try that and realize it may not happen everywhere.”

Booth said the group has already found some interest from landowners around Head-o-Lakes Bay, which has been encouraging. Getting from there to the city of Cook, however, remains somewhat daunting, given the significant area of swamp located just south of the existing Vermilion Fairways golf course. Booth said the group still isn’t sure how it gets past the wetlands.

On the trail’s east end, the group is currently focused on a segment from the city of Tower to the Y Store, where wetlands are less of an issue.

With a timeline that estimates trail completion at 2037, Booth said members of the committee recognize that the trail is a long-term project that will present any number of challenges along the way.

Comments

4 comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment
John bassing

First Sen Bakk uses eminent domain as a reason to oppose the Vermilion Trail and when that “Red Herring” starts to stink he throws out another, logging. He would have us believe that all Hiking and biking trails are logging stoppers but that fish stinks also. Trails have been built throughout woodlands in the U.S. for years and have little impact on logging. We haven’t heard the Senator worry about logging when it comes to snowmobile or ATV trails and we shouldn’t. This is simply a kleptocrat trying to use his influence to protect his Hunting club. Many of us on the Trail Committee will probably never see the Trail anywhere near completion but have put forth the effort for the public good of the future. It is time for you and your buddies on the County Board to support us in construction of a first class trail.

Sunday, February 25
Hardrockminer

Spot on John! Bakk is merely protecting his ‘turf’. He has a peaceful little fiefdom nearby. So transparently self-serving! Term limits for all

Sunday, February 25
Lee Peterson

Thanks John,

I have attended meetings and followed the Lake Vermilion Trail idea since its beginning. It is a very worthy project. But, it probably won't get past Senator Tom Bakk and his allies who are on the St. Louis County Board: Keith Nelson, Pat Boyle, Pete Stauber and Mike Jugovich. The main factor appears to be the protection of a 40 acre parcel, the "Meadow Hunting Club LLC", owned by Tom Bakk, that sits surrounded by hundreds of acres of public land in Greenwood Township. Access is through public land.

A founding LV Trail concept and original written statement includes that "eminent domain" would specifically not be used in acquiring right-of-way under any circumstances. Very simple. Tom Bakk knew this. Besides myself, his friends from Cook stated this to him long ago. But, he kept using "eminent domain" as an excuse to oppose the trail until that excuse wore out. Now he has evolved on to other false flag excuses. None of them valid.

Bakk has a lot of political power because of his position as Senate Minority Leader, and possibly as Majority Leader again in the near future. He can make or break the Lake Vermilion Trail, particularly the very important link that would traverse Greenwood Township. That's where the "Meadow Hunting Club LLC" facility is. (LLC, smacks of a little elitism, doesn't it?)

Sadly, privatized use of public land is something that is occurring all over the country. Some people certainly know how to arrange it and how to keep it secured.

Absent a joint press release from Bakk, Rep. Ecklund and St. Louis County giving full support to the entire Lake Vermilion Trail, I believe that the trail is dead as far as Greenwood Township is concerned. And I stated as much in my report to the Greenwood Town Board at the February meeting. That's just reality. The monkey is on Sen. Bakk's back.

Lee Peterson

Greenwood Township resident

Sunday, February 25
Steve Jacobson

If you look on the St. Louis County Land explorer for his name he has some 40's that have a value of $3000 and pays $40/yr in taxes on them. A typical 40 acre parcel with no structures pays $$300-400/yr taxes. I could only find one today but a few years back there were two or three. Also, some of the Meadow Hunting Club parcels are listed in someone else's name.

Monday, February 26