Gunflint Trail Fire Department begins fire hall expansions with help from community donations

As summer came to an end, the Gunflint Trail Fire Department started seeing activity on its fire hall expansion projects. Fire Department spokesperson Michael Valentini also announced some great news. He said Paul and Carol Schaap, property owners on Clearwater Lake, have stepped forward and committed $250,000 to the project. “Needless to say, we are overwhelmed with the generosity and support,” said Valentini.
The Schaaps have had a cabin on Clearwater Lake since 1974, dividing their time between there and Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan. The News-Herald reached Paul Schaap there and asked if he had anything to say to others who may be thinking of donating to the project. Schaap said, “We recognize the importance of their work, not just the fire response, but the medical aspect of it. When you are up the Gunflint Trail, you’re a long way from everything. It’s critical to have these services.”
The announcement about the donation from the Schaaps came at the start of the Gunflint Trail Fire Department’s fund drive campaign. Barbara Graham, of Gunflint Lake, started the community fire department off with a $20,000 contribution. Valentini said the fire department also received $15,000 from an anonymous donor and numerous other contributions. “To reach our goal we still need to raise another $100,000 so we can't rest on our laurels,” he added.
As fundraising continues, work is underway for renovation of the fire stations and community space.
Schaap said another reason his family supported the project is because of the community center piece. He said it will be good for the community to have a place to hold meetings.
As work continues, the fundraising will continue as well. Valentini explained that the funding the fire department has annually received from the Gunflint Canoe Races and the Mid-Trail Auction and Boutique fundraiser have historically been used for equipment purchases, training and supplies. The fire department would like to continue to use those funds for that purpose. “If we had to cut back on those things, we could,” said Valentini. “But we are hoping that we don’t have to.”
The estimate for the overall projects at the three fire halls is in the $650,000 range. The project funding comes in part from 1 percent interest loans from Cook County. According to County Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers, the county board approved a $220,000 loan to the Gunflint Fire Department in 2011. Powers said $50,000 of that amount has been used. The Fire Department approached the county commissioners again on September 12, 2012 seeking a loan of $200,000, which was approved. “That is our back-up plan. If we can’t raise another $100,000, we will need to use some of the county loan,” explained Valentini.
The loan will be repaid by Gunflint Trail property taxes over 20 years.  Other funding is from a $50,000 grant from the Lloyd K Johnson Foundation; $250,000 from Paul and Carol Schaap and $30,000 to $50,000 already committed by other donors.
As with any building projects, Valentini said there are options at the fire halls that were “left on the drawing board in order to make this endeavor possible.” The success of the fire department’s fundraising efforts will determine what can be completed.
Valentini said, “The Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department graciously thanks all of you who have donated your money, time and talents. You are making our community stronger and safer. Your continued generosity is greatly appreciated.”
If you would like to donate to the Gunflint Trail Fire Department, you may do so on-line at www.gunflint911.org—just click donations. Or checks may be sent to the treasurer at Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department, 7401 Gunflint Trail, Grand Marais MN 55604. For more information on the project, call Michael Valentini at (218) 388-0900.