A new bridge spanning the Vermilion River will be officially opened Sept. 20 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that is expected to include hundreds of trail-riding families from across Minnesota.
The opening of the 185-foot bridge takes place during the annual convention of the ATV Association of Minnesota, or ATVAM.
The multi-year project was led by the Voyageur Country ATV club. Set in place last week, the 185-foot, single-span bridge connects new trail segments used by riders of ATVs and snowmobiles on both sides of the river,.
The $1.26 million project includes 16 miles of trail that connects Elephant Lake and Echo Lake. The project funding came from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board and from ATV user fees.
“This is a project that has been four years from the initial vision to putting the bridge in place,” said Bruce Beste, a member of the Voyageur Country ATV Board. “It’s made up of 80 tons of American steel and it’s 14-feet wide.
“This is an awesome project. I think it’s a premier ATV trail project in the state of Minnesota. The first ride on Friday will be the first ride across the bridge. This provides numerous new trail connections and it’s sure to be a place people stop when they’re out riding in the Crane Lake area.”
The ribbon-cutting ceremony, scheduled for 11 a.m., is a highlight of the three-day ATVAM convention, also called “Ride & Rally.” Families riding ATVs, along with elected officials, tourism bureaus, and local, state and federal agencies, will gather on both sides of the river for the official opening.
The Ride & Rally also features 12 different trail rides in the area on Saturday, followed by a banquet and auction. For more information and a complete schedule of activities, go to the ATVAM website: atvam.org.
Organized in 2015 with 66 members, the Voyageur Country ATV club now has a membership of more than 700. It has been influential in opening a number of U.S. Forest Service roads and St Louis County roads in the area to ATVs, connecting hundreds of miles of existing wooded trails. The club’s mission is to provide safe, signed corridors for ATV riders, connect local communities, promote responsible riding, protect the environment and positively impact local tourism.
ATVAM is the state association representing 80 ATV clubs across Minnesota. Established in 1983, it serves the interests of ATV owners in Minnesota by advocating for ATV recreation, advancing the safe use of ATVs, building trails economically and environmentally sustainable, providing information, and participating in legislative and regulatory activities related to the use of all-terrain vehicles.