A million reasons for Vermilion

The state should do everything it can to make Lake Vermilion the next state park.

Last week, Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced plans for the state to purchase land on the eastern shore of Lake Vermilion from U.S. Steel. The cost is expected to be high – between $20 million and $50 million for the 2,500 acres and five miles of shoreline, and conservationists have pointed out that the state hasn’t increased funding for existing parks in years. The state does have a number of other pressing issues to address, but we believe this is an investment the state must make.

Lake Vermilion has long been recognized as one of the most beautiful lakes in our state. Anglers praise the fishing, paddlers seek the 365 islands dotted inside the lake and sightseers enjoy its wide vistas of pine and birch forests. The proposed land abuts Soudan Underground Mine State Park on its west, and together, the two parks would provide more than 10 miles of shoreline and 3,700 acres of public land.

Right now, we have a choice that is seldom presented so clearly. We can do nothing, and U.S. Steel will sell the land to developers who will cut and clear the pristine forests and build lakeside mansions for the wealthy. Or we, as a state, can tighten our belts, pay the price and have a park that countless future generations can enjoy. If we choose to do nothing, there will be no second chance on this land.

There will be no public vote on this decision, and it needs to be decided, quickly, by the state Legislature when session begins next year. We encourage anyone who supports this park to write to his elected officials and make sure their votes are cast the right way.

We are reminded of words that Sigurd Olson, Minnesota’s greatest conservationist, wrote in 1938:

“Why wilderness? Ask the men who have known it and who have made it part of their lives. They might not be able to explain, but your very question will kindle a light in eyes that have reflected the campfires of a continent, eyes that have known the glory of dawns and sunsets and nights under the stars. Wilderness to them is real, and this they do know. When the pressure becomes more than they can stand, somewhere back of beyond, where roads and steel and towns are still forgotten, they will find release.”