Around Cook County
Cook County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is now accepting rain garden applications from private and public landowners in the Lake Superior Basin in Cook County. With the help of Clean Water Land & Legacy Funds, Cook County SWCD has financial and technical assistance available to assist interested landowners in constructing a rain garden on their property.
For rain garden information and an application form, see www.cookswcd.org or contact the Cook County SWCD office at (218) 387-3649. Applications are due by 4 p.m. May 24.
At the April Tofte town meeting, Supervisor Jim King asked about setting a date for “Volunteer Spring Clean up Day” for the park and town hall grounds.
“The major projects seem to be cleaning up three slash piles and the deadfalls,” said King, noting that he would not be much help with his “arthritic shoulder.” King added, “Really, when you look around this room, we’re the only ones that come and help out anyway. Maybe we should hire a younger worker by the hour to do the job.”
“Last year John [Nelson] and I had a young guy help us in the park and we were amazed at how fast he was. He worked twice as fast as we did,” said volunteer Jerry Gervais.
The board decided to allow Gervais and King to find a younger person to work with them and pay that person by the hour to clean up the park.
There was a fair amount of discussion about what to do with the park pavilion. Gervais and Jim King will work with architect Scott Berry to develop a plan to fix the base of the pavilion and in case the pavilion needs to be moved the township will request a variance from the county.
“If we move the building we will lose its existing footprint. And I think that with the views offered up and down the shore, that’s the best place for the pavilion,” said Gervais. King agreed, but Olsen said, “We have nothing to lose by asking for a variance. If we need it, we will have it, but it doesn’t mean we will have to use it.”
After some discussion the board agreed to apply for a variance but noted that the pavilion will probably stay right where it is after repairs have been made.
The next Tofte town meeting will be Thursday, May 9 at 7 p.m. at the town hall.
On April 26, 2013, more than 300 leading scientists sent a letter to the White House expressing “deep concerns” about the prospect of large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed of Southwest Alaska, home to the world’s largest wild salmon runs. The action comes as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) releases for public comment a revised draft assessment on watershed impacts of what could be North America’s largest mine.
(Click on A.M. Community Calendar link below to hear more about the proposed mine in an interview with Dr. David Chambers, a geophysicist with the Center for Science in Public Participation.)
The open-pit gold and copper operation, known as Pebble Mine, would likely cover an area larger than Manhattan, according to EPA. The proposal is backed by the world’s second-largest mining corporation, London-based Anglo American, and Canada’s Northern Dynasty Minerals. The project has drawn sharp criticism from the Bristol Bay Native Corp., nine regional tribes, the commercial fishing industry, sportsmen, and environmentalists who fear the massive mine could cause irreversible damage to the watershed. The state of Alaska and the mining industry have objected to EPA’s action to assesses the mine’s potential impact.
The county may be looking for an administrator sometime in the months ahead. On April 30, the county board met to discuss the possibility and agreed to move forward on formulating how that job might look.
Commissioners Bruce Martinson and Sue Hakes said they have heard positive comments from constituents in regard to hiring an administrator. Commissioner Hakes said she had heard from people both in support of and against the position in the past, but recently, people have been expressing only support. “I haven’t heard anybody who says they don’t want one,” she said. “Not one.”
They need to consider the position in the context of the size of this community, Commissioner Garry Gamble said, but they also need to consider “what’s on our plate” as a county. He said he thinks the board needs an administrator so they “could focus on the bigger picture.”
The board discussed a desire to gather input from the public on whether an administrator should be hired. Commissioner Martinson suggested that they create a job description that could be presented to the public and then revised before advertising for the position. Commissioner Heidi Doo-Kirk suggested presenting two options for the public to consider.
The question of hiring an administrator came up when Personnel Director/Board Secretary Janet Simonen announced earlier this year that she would be retiring in August.
By a vote of 3-0, with Commissioner Hall absent and Commissioner Hakes unable to vote because she was in attendance only by speakerphone, the board passed a motion to pursue the possibility of hiring an administrator by developing a draft job description and seeking input from the public. They passed another motion to request prices from personnel search firms that could help the county find candidates.
The Cook County ATV Club reminds parents that an ATV Safety Training course is available in May for students, ages 12 - 15. Sign up now for a safe summer!
The course is part independent study and part field test. When students sign up, they will receive a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) CD to study for the written test and field test. ATVs and helmets are provided for the field test.
A review and the written test will be conducted on Wednesday, May 16 at 3:15 – 5:15 p.m. in Cook County High School room 110. After successfully passing the test, students participate in a Field Test on Saturday, May 18 at 8 a.m. at the old Grand Marais airport site (by Devil Track Landing).
There is a $10 fee, payable to Community Education for the class. The Cook County ATV Club provides scholarships to any youths who cannot afford the course fee. All of the students who successfully complete the ATV safety training will also be treated to a pizza party with the DNR and volunteer instructors and will receive an ATV club t-shirt.
Safety Instructor Dick Parker, an ATV Club member, encouraged parents to have their kids take this course. “Statistics show that 47% of all persons involved in ATV accidents are in their teens, 10-19 years old. The major cause of accidents is rollovers and hitting fixed objects. Speed is frequently the cause," said Parker. "That's why it is so important to catch kids when they are young to teach them about safe and ethical riding."
“Just because you don’t own an ATV doesn’t mean your kid doesn’t need the training,” said Safety Instructor Chuck Silence. “There are more ATVs in the state than snowmobiles—you want them to be prepared to ride just in case they have the chance at a neighbor or friend’s house.”
Before venturing out to campgrounds, trails and public water accesses, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) advises people to check online or call ahead to avoid surprises.
“Winter weather is always a challenge to public water access,” said Nancy Stewart, DNR public access program coordinator. “Because of the late ice out this year, DNR crews have been unable to inspect and repair launch ramps or put the docks in at the DNR-operated public water access sites. We will get them ready as soon as possible, but we are at the mercy of Mother Nature right now.”
Meanwhile, at Minnesota state parks the cold weather has kept water shut off and RV dump stations closed at many campgrounds.
“Winter conditions persist at Gooseberry Falls State Park and many other parks around the Northland,” said Park Manager Audrey Butts. “We’ve had some folks arrive with camping reservations without knowing in advance what to expect – which has been unplowed roads and a foot of snow in their site.”