Minnesota’s Newest State Park Reaches Important Milestone

Construction Begins on New Campground at Lake Vermilion

Construction began Friday on a campground at Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park in northeastern Minnesota that will accommodate more than 250 people nightly in tents and RVs, the Department of Natural Resources said.

The campground at Minnesota’s newest state park is expected to open in fall 2016.

“Our vision is to create a model ‘next generation’ state park,” said Erika Rivers, director of the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. “That means we are exploring new ideas and demonstrating best practices as we design and build park facilities.”

Future phases of construction at the park, pending funding, will include a visitor center, trail system, cabins, group camps and nature play areas, as well as additional hike-in, boat-in and ATV-in campsites.

“We will set high standards for energy efficiency and accessibility,” Rivers said. “And we’ll use emerging technologies to help visitors find their way around and learn more about the natural and cultural resources that make this park such a special place.”

When fully developed, the park will get an estimated 250,000 visitors annually, bringing an estimated $18.2 million in spending to the northeast region of the state.

The main campground, when completed, will accommodate:

• 168 people at 28 drive-in campsites, where amenities will include electricity, flush toilets, showers and Wi-Fi, plus a water access site that will connect campers to boating and fishing opportunities on the lake.

• 60 people at two group camps designed for tents and RVs, with a sanitation building that includes flush toilets and showers.

• 30 people at a semi-primitive group camp with vault toilets.

About 35 eighth-grade students from Marshall County Central School in Newfolden got to witness history in the making at the park Friday, where Gov. Mark Dayton and other state officials broke ground for the campground.

Also on hand was Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, who announced her intent to visit all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas.

To help her track her progress, Rivers presented the lieutenant governor with a Passport Club kit, which includes a booklet that can be stamped every time she visits a Minnesota state park or recreation area.

Others attending the ceremony were U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, Minnesota Sen. Tom Bakk, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, Explore Minnesota Tourism Director John Edman, former DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten and Tim Pawlenty, who was governor when the state reached a deal with U.S. Steel to acquire the land for the park.

Park background

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 much public input.

Because the new park is co-managed with the adjacent Soudan Underground Mine, the Legislature changed the name to Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park during the 2014 legislative session.

The park has been open since 2010 for recreation such as hiking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and geocaching.

Interpretive staff have offered occasional programs, including a BioBlitz that involved citizens in identifying plants, animals and insects at the park.

All of the funding for the campground will come from bonding. 

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