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Split Rock extension plans move forward

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news Two Harbors, 55616
Two Harbors Minnesota 109 Waterfront Dr. 55616

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is getting closer to finishing plans to expand its campground from 24 sites to more than 100.

The campground expansion proposal includes 77 new electric campsites, four camper cabins, a picnic shelter, parking area, vault toilets, a sanitation building, an RV dump station and recycling center, as well as access roads. Campsites are proposed to be about 1,000 square feet, with a pull-in or pull-through driveway feature. They'll also have a fire ring and picnic table. Some sites will have tent pads.

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"It should be state-of-the-art, highly desirable campsites," said Mark Kovacovich, recreation supervisor for the DNR's northeast region division of parks and trails. "They'll be really unique sites that'll be designed into the landscape."

The next step for the expansion project is to accept public comment until Jan. 25 on the Environmental Assessment Worksheet. The 30-day period allows people to review the environmental impact the project could have and make comments.

The plan has been discussed for a few years now. In 2009, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources held open houses at the park to talk about expanding.

The park now has 20 cart-in sites, four backpack sites, showers, flush toilets, vault toilets, a picnic area, two picnic shelters and a trail center. None of the campsites have electrical hookups.

The expansion will be across 179 acres that is already part of the park. Last year, the DNR purchased from Lake County 80 acres along the northern edge of the park.

The park expansion would be done in two phases. This summer, the main access road, one campground loop road with 47 campsites, and the sanitation facility would be built. The second phase would start at least a year later, including three campground loop roads, 30 campsites, four camper cabins and a sanitary dump station.

If the state goes forward with both phases, preliminary estimates show it could cost up to $5.5 million. The first phase, if done on its own, would cost about $3.5 million. Kovacovich said the project costs are part of a $30 million DNR bonding bill in the coming legislative session. If all goes well, he said, work could be bid out as early as this summer.

The expansion is being planned to meet the increasing demand for campsites. In 2010, all campsites were occupied during July and August, with the campground achieving full occupancy 50 percent of the time during June and September. Kovacovich said the other North Shore state parks lack accommodations for RVs.

Kovacovich is excited for what the expansion could mean for recreation on the North Shore.

"We'll have more people spending time on the North Shore in Lake County, which should boost the local tourism economy," he said.

Copies of the Environmental Assessment Worksheet are available for public review at the DNR Northeast Region office in Grand Rapids, the Silver Bay City Library, Two Harbors Public Library, Duluth Public Library and online at mndnr.gov.

Written comments on the EAW must be submitted no later than 4:30 p.m. Jan. 25 to the attention of Ronald Wieland, EAW project manager, Environmental Policy and Review Unit, Division of Ecological and Water Resources, DNR, 400 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4025. Comments also may be sent to environmentalrev.dnr@state.mn.us with "Split Rock EAW" in the subject line. A name and mailing address must be included on all public comments.

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