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News and other information from Cook County

Draft of Cook County Comprehensive Trail Plan available for review

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 2:12pm

A Cook County Comprehensive Trails Plan is being developed to outline strategic actions that the county and trail stakeholders can take to “create and maintain a quality system of trails for multiple uses in order to contribute to the quality of life for residents and the quality of experiences for visitors in Cook County and Grand Portage.”

Cook County is working with professional planners from the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission (ARDC) to complete the planning process and a public comment period will open on March 7, 2016.

According to David Demmer, land use specialist with Cook County Planning and Zoning, draft proposed actions include policy changes, improved and expanded trail systems, improvements to trail affiliated public facilities, improving the efficiency of trail maintenance, and many other ideas. 

On March 7, 2016, residents and other interested stakeholders can review the draft document by going to:

The draft plan can also reviewed as a hard copy at the Cook County Planning and Zoning office and the Grand Marais Public Library. 

The public input period will give interested parties a chance to suggest changes or add recommended actions to the plan.  The committee responsible for drafting the plan will consider changes to the document after the public input period closes on March 18, 2016 and before the plan goes to an official adoption process with the Cook County Board of Commissioners. 

Comments on the draft plan should be sent to ARDC via email to Charlie Moore at or mailed to: Charlie Moore, ARDC, 221 West First Street, Duluth, MN 55812.

Additional comments will be accepted at a public presentation of the draft plan at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at the Cook County commissioners’ room at the courthouse in Grand Marais. 


Logging truck accident near Lutsen injures three

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 1:40pm

As reported live on WTIP March, 7, three people were injured Tuesday afternoon in an automobile accident involving a logging truck that spilled its cargo across Highway 61 near Lutsen and the Caribou Trail.

None of the individuals involved in the accident are from Cook County.

According to an incident report from the Minnesota State Patrol, Brandon Smith, 32, of International Falls, and Constance and Russell Almquist, both 80, of Bloomington, Minn., were taken from the scene by ambulance. Smith, the driver of the logging truck, and Constance Almquist were taken to North Shore Hospital and Care Center in Grand Marais. Russell Almquist was taken to Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth, where he is reported by the hospital to be in fair condition.

The couple had been traveling north in a Honda Accord on Highway 61 when it struck the spilled logs. The logging truck had come to rest on its side, blocking the northbound lane of Highway 61.

Smith had been traveling east on Caribou Trail and attempting to turn north onto Highway 61 when the truck overturned shortly after 1:30 p.m.

Grand Portage Band obtains 'Susie Islands' from Nature Conservancy

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 10:45am

In what was deemed a positive and beneficial land acquisition for all parties involved, the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa obtained the Susie Island parcel from the Nature Conservancy. WTIP's Joe Friedrichs reports on this story. 


EIS approval far from Polymet's end goal

Tue, 03/08/2016 - 8:32am

A proposed mining project near Hoyt Lakes took a big step forward last week when an Environmental Impact Statement was approved by the DNR. But there is much more to come that could determine if the project will actually happen or not. WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs has this report. 


West End elections and annual meetings on Tuesday, March 8

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 12:45pm

Coming up on March 8, Lutsen, Tofte and Schroeder residents will cast ballots for their township government representatives. All three townships hold their annual meeting and elections that day, with polls opening at 5 p.m. and the annual meeting beginning at 8 p.m.

The News-Herald talked to a number of the candidates, asking them why they are running for a town board seat—or running for re-election. The overwhelming response is that they just want to give back to the community.

In Lutsen, Rae Piepho is running for the supervisor seat currently held by Tim Goettl. Goettl is not running for re-election.

Acting Lutsen Clerk Sharon Hexum Platzer is running for the clerk position.

In Schroeder, two incumbents are running for re-election, unopposed—Supervisor Tina McKeever and Clerk Doug Schwecke.

In Tofte, incumbent clerk Barb Gervais is running for re-election and acting treasurer Nancy Iverson is running to fill that position.

Tofte has a contested race—incumbent Supervisor Jim King is being challenged by Sarah Somnis.


This local news is provided by the Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at

Public hearing on proposed changes to septic ordinance March 9

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 12:41pm

Planning and Zoning Director Tim Nelson appeared before the county board on Tuesday, February 16 to explain a change to the county septic ordinance that he hopes will satisfy the concerns of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

Nelson explained that Cook County Planning and Zoning staff and the septic system ordinance committee recognized the difficulty for property owners to establish two “Type 1” septic sites for newly created residential lots. Nelson said considering the “geology and geography” of the county, the county ordinance was created with language that would give property owners more flexibility.

Unfortunately, according to Nelson, the MPCA said the language was not suitable for a countywide ordinance. MPCA instead wants a case-by-case review of sites that do not have two septic sites, which would require a public hearing and would put more of a burden on anyone developing new residential lots.

Nelson said his staff and the Septic Advisory Committee formulated language that they believe will be accepted by MPCA that would be less quite cumbersome for landowners, using an administrative variance process—with no need for a public hearing.

The board agreed to hold a public hearing to consider adoption of the septic system ordinance language change on March 9 at 5 p.m. in the commissioners’ room.


This local news is provided by the Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at


Nature Conservancy aims to purchase Lake Superior shoreline near U.S.border

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 8:39am

The Nature Conservancy of Canada aims to purchase property along Lake Superior near the U.S. border. WTIP's Joe Friedrichs reports on this story. 


WTIP Weekend News Roundup for March 5

Sat, 03/05/2016 - 11:48am

Each week the WTIP news staff compiles a review of news from the previous five days. This was caucus week and there were big turnouts. The DNR signed off on the PolyMet project’s first phase, Great Lakes states are concerned about radioactivity and water demands…all this and more in the week’s news.


No Dollar General for Grand Marais?

Sat, 03/05/2016 - 11:42am

There have been more rumors surrounding a Dollar General store in Grand Marais and this time the rumors are that Dollar General is not coming to town. The Cook County News-Herald contacted the company this week and while no one can predict the future, as of Monday, Feb. 29, Dollar General has no plans to place a store in Grand Marais, according to Corrine Smith, marketing coordinator for the Dollar General. With stores popping up almost daily around the country, Smith had to take some time to locate Cook County on the company’s map that shows where new stores are being built or are being planned to be built in the coming year. Based on that map, said Smith, there was no indication Dollar General had any future plans to place a store in Grand Marais or anywhere in the county.

Richard J. Knight, an attorney in Appleton, Wisconsin registered the DGI-Grand Marais LLC trademark name on December 7, 2015. His partner, Todd Platt, a builder, was looking at land adjacent to the Harbor Light Restaurant.  Talks were underway with the owners of two pieces of property to build a 9,700-foot store. A survey was conducted and red flags marked off some of the area for a store, but no further action has been taken.

Those plans seem to have been halted following the February 10, Grand Marais City Council vote to establish a moratorium of up to one year on construction of buildings larger than 5,000 square feet on commercial/industrial property along Highway 61 within the city limits. Without the moratorium, the city’s current zoning laws wouldn’t have delayed—or stopped—the store from being built.

To date, Dollar General or Richard Knight had not applied for a building permit for the property next to Harbor Light.

Scrap 'N Craft at Birch Grove Community Center

Fri, 03/04/2016 - 2:07pm

Scrap 'N Craft at the Birch Grove Community Center, is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon with friends and kids, work on hobbies, share ideas, visit and enjoy potluck.

The next scheduled event is at Birch Grove Community Center on March 6, 2016 from 12 p.m. - 6 p.m. Brenda Melin of Birch Grove invites everyone to “stop in and get those creative energies working.”

For more information about Birch Grove programs, call 218-663-7977.


This local news is provided by the Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at

DNR finds Polymet project review 'adequate'

Thu, 03/03/2016 - 5:17pm

DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr announced Thursday, March 3, that the Environmental Impact Statement for Polymet Mining's Northmet Project meets state standards. WTIP's Joe Friedrichs reports on this story. 


March turns warm with snow and maybe rain

Thu, 03/03/2016 - 12:02pm

March is warming up. This weekend will have highs in the 40’s, a little snow and maybe even rain as we get into the week. WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Stewart.


Cook County Alpine skiers heading to Junior Championships in Winter Park, Colorado

Thu, 03/03/2016 - 11:42am

The Cook County Schools Alpine ski season is over, but some North Shore skiers are continuing their racing season. Masen McKeever and Halle Lamb recently qualified for the U-14 USSA Rocky Central Junior Championships in Winter Park, Colorado. 

Approximately 70 boys and 70 girls from Region One competed against each other at three qualifying races for 23 available Junior Championship slots.  They raced Giant Slalom and Kombi at Giants Ridge, Super Giant Slalom at Indianhead Mountain and Slalom at Welch Village. 

Masen finished 15th overall, his best finish was 10th place in Slalom. 

Halle finished in 20th place overall, her best finish was 10th place in Super G.  

The Cook County skiers will be racing at Winter Park on March 15-20.


This local news is provided by the Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at

North House expands campus with building purchase

Thu, 03/03/2016 - 8:32am

The North House Folk School in Grand Marais expanded its campus this week and moved a portion of the school across Highway 61. WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs brings us this story. 


Apply now for help to create your Great Place in Cook County

Thu, 03/03/2016 - 4:31am

Over the last two years, a transformation has been taking place in Cook County. Twenty-nine Great Place projects have been created by local artists, business owners, and nonprofits.

The Cook County of Chamber of Commerce and the Moving Matters project of the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, with new support this year from the Minnesota Power Foundation, announce the third year of the Great Place Project, which invites applications for $250 to $1,250 for low-cost, high-impact projects to make a place great.

A Great Place is one that is inviting, beautiful and catches the eye. A Great Place encourages people to slow down and spend time there. A Great Place reflects the unique character and identity of the community. Past projects have ranged from public art to benches to Little Free Libraries.

For the 2016 round of funding, the theme is “Playability.” Projects that enhance or create a place that welcomes people with a playfulness or whimsy, especially for children, will be favored. In addition, this year projects that have significant visual impact and will inspire physical activity are sought. Projects that entice children and families to run and play and laugh, for example, will score high on the review, as will projects that create beauty with sufficient “pop” that they cause people to stop for a longer look.

The application is available online at or paper copies are available at the Cook County Chamber of Commerce (15 N. Broadway, Grand Marais). Deadline for applications is March 31. For more information, contact the Chamber at or (218) 387-2079.


This local news is provided by the Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at