Thursday marked our first committee hearing deadline for policy bills. I moved several bills forward this week and we got our first look at an exciting new project for establishing a national loon center in our part of Minnesota.
First, a quick comment on a bill (H.F. 492) that moved forward this week and is important to our district. We heard the proposal in the Capital Investment Committee (aka, bonding) this week. This project requests a $1,500,000 appropriation from bond proceeds to design and develop the Mille Lacs-Malmo East Loop ATV trail system. The new 58-mile trail would connect to the Northwoods Regional ATV trail system which already serves portions of Aitkin, Mille Lacs, Crow Wing, Itasca and Cass Counties, as well as counties further north.
The area where this trail would be built is primarily state and county tax forfeited lands on the east side of Mille Lacs Lake. A series of forestry and abandoned township roads already exist in this remote area making it ideal for both summer ATV and winter snowmobile use. A special thanks to Steve Kulifaj from the Red Door Resort and Motel for coming down to St. Paul to testify on the importance of this project in diversifying our local tourism industry around the lake.
This morning the Brainerd Lakes Area Chamber hosted a panel discussion with Sens. Gazelka and Ruud, and Reps. Poston, Heintzeman and myself. That was an excellent opportunity to field questions and receive suggestions from the business community on issues important to our local economy.
After the chamber panel discussion, several of us met with Cross Lake Mayor Patty Norgaard and other community leaders to discuss an exciting new project to create a national loon center at Cross Lake. The project is in the planning stage and is proposed to be located at the US Army Corps Cross Lake Recreation Area site. You could say it’s a bit odd that Minnesota has an International Wolf Center in Ely and a National Eagle Center in Wabasha, but the loon – our state bird – has yet to be recognized in this manner. That is about to change.
For more info on this exciting new project visit this link. We have a lot of work to do to make this happen, but our local community leaders already have a good start by gathering partners, collaborators and funding support for this project. You will be hearing a lot about this project in the near future. The goal is to have the center built and in operation by 2021.