Bob Manzoline, executive director of the St. Louis County Railroad Authority, presented an update on new Mesabi Trail and snowmobile routes between Eveleth and Virginia to the Eveleth City Council on Tuesday. Current trail connections will be eliminated by the new Highway 53 project, but the Mesabi Trail Board hit a major snag mapping out an alternate ATV path — there currently isn’t a trail option.
A group of Eveleth business owners, whose businesses rely on the trails’ tourism, collectively expressed the need for an ATV trail to connect with Virginia. They called the lack of such a trail a “mistake” by the board.
“I don’t disagree, just haven’t found it,” Manzoline said. “It hasn’t been for lack of effort.”
One option remaining is to continue talking to RGGS Land and Minerals about allowing ATVs on its land. Councilor Bradley Hadrava said the Joint Trail Board successfully negotiated the ATV trail to Gilbert through RGGS land, with the conditions of building a fence and taking out a $5 million insurance plan. He believed RGGS was worth a shot.
Manzoline said RGGS is declining their efforts.
“The land owner will allow the Mesabi Trail and snowmobiles, but are reluctant on an ATV trail,” he said. “That could possibly be done, but so far we’ve been told no.”
Eveleth Mayor Robert Vlaisavljevich asked Manzoline to come back to the city at a later date with more specifics, and after the sides talk with RGGS and discuss some possibilities with the Virginia Eveleth Economic Development Authority.
“There’s a lot of factors involved,” he said. “We depend on that tourism. It is a big deal. Let’s get it right.”
Other ATV trail options, including keeping it on the west side of the new highway, are no longer options. The Minnesota Department of Transportation shut down the idea because it will be cutoff by the new road. The state Department of Natural Resources was given the task of finding a route, Manzoline said, but has not acted.
Without an active trail north, the only ATV-specific route would send riders to Gilbert.
“We’ll go back to RGGS and see if we can’t make a deal again,” Hadrava concluded.