County official wants Lake Vermilion park to include private development

Map of Lake Vermilion
This map shows the outline of the proposed Lake Vermilion state park, in black. The existing Soudan Mine State Park is outlined in green.
Map courtesy of the Minnesota DNR

A St. Louis County commissioner hopes to shrink the size of a proposed state park around Lake Vermilion, but others say it's too late for that.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed a new 3,000-acre park on the northern Minnesota site, but St. Louis County Commissioner Keith Nelson is suggesting a 2,000 acre park instead, leaving 1,000 acres for a private waterfront housing development.

"I absolutely support the park, but only if I build it out so the people can enjoy it," Nelson said. "By partnering with the park, we bring down the price for the park substantially, again, making the build out of the park then affordable."

Combining the public and private developments, he says, can free up enough money to pay for state park amenities like roads, sewage and water service, and camping facilities.

"If we just acquire the acreage, and we don't have the dollars to build it out, we're not doing a service to the people of the State of Minnesota," Nelson said.

However, the plan faces some opposition and it's unclear if state lawmakers would consider a smaller park. The governor has signed a new bonding bill clearing a legal hurdle for the purchase of the full park, but full funding remains to be secured.

County commissioners will take up the idea Tuesday, and may decide to forward it to state lawmakers.

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