The following content was contributed by Cook County News Herald

Cook County Chamber sets agenda for 2017 session of Minnesota Legislature

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:02am

With the Minnesota Legislature back in session, the Cook County Chamber of Commerce is moving ahead with its 2017 legislative agenda, said Jim Boyd, chamber executive director.

"Our agenda centers on the unfinished business from 2016; the bonding bill and the tax bill. Secondly, it focuses on workforce development through Cook County Higher Ed and workforce housing," he said. "Our bonding priorities are for two segments of the Gitchi Gami bike trail and improvements to the public water access in the southwest corner of Grand Marais Harbor."

Paula Sundet Wolf, executive director of Cook County Higher Education, has been working with higher-education officials in St. Paul and with the chamber on a proposal that would boost Higher Ed's state funding from $ 140,000 to $500,000. "Paula makes a compelling case that Higher Ed and its staff are being extended beyond their capacity to serve the workforce development needs of Cook County," Boyd said.

The housing initiatives on which the chamber will focus include: A workforce housing tax credit that should encourage private investment in housing throughout Greater Minnesota.

Renewed funding for a DEED Workforce Housing Grant Program.  This program was funded at $2 million in 2015.  In 2016, the Cook County-Grand Marais EDA secured $325,000 from this program to support its 16-unit workforce rental housing project in Lutsen. 

Modifying eligibility language to allow MHFA involvement with housing projects that do not connect to municipal water and sewer. Right now, MHFA requires municipal connections before it will either fund or support affordable rental or homeownership projects. In Cook County, that would mean no projects outside of Grand Marais.

Because there was not a bonding bill in 2016, the Legislature will be considering passing one this session. Governor Dayton released his $1.5 billion bonding proposal the first week of the session.  This marks the starting point for the discussion this year. Judy Erickson, the Chamber's legislative representative is hopeful there will be a bonding bill in 2017, but that decision likely will not happen until late in the session, she said.

Sen. Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) and Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL-International Falls) are working on introducing bills to fund the Gitchi Gami Trail segments and for the Grand Marais Access. The Governor's bill did not include the Gitchi Gami but did provide a small amount for the Grand Marais Access as a part of DNR' asset preservation program. 

 "We go into the session hopeful that legislators will recognize the sensible nature of our proposals and agree to support them. Ensuring that Cook County receives strong representation in St. Paul is one of the principal reasons the chamber exists. More than one-third of our budget is devoted to that goal," Boyd said. "In Judy Erickson, we have one of the best representatives available, and in Sen. Bakk and Rep. Ecklund, one of the best legislative teams. So even though no one knows quite what to expect from state and national politics this year, we will do our best to represent the interests of our county and its residents."






Champagne Bonspiel bubbles with excitment

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 9:55am

By Joanne Smith

The Cook County Curling Club hosted its first Two-Person Open Champagne Bonspiel with 16 teams participating.

The two-person game is a pared down version of a regular four-person game.  All standard rules and etiquette of curling apply, but there is no sweeping between hog lines – only from hog line to back line.  All other sweeping rules apply.

Team members stay at each end and do not cross center ice, except during timeouts or an extra end. Six stones per end are thrown, and there are six ends per match.  The two delivering curlers alternate stones. This new game of curling has become popular in the Cook County Curling Club. The Two-Person League is played on Wednesday evenings starting at 6 p.m., and the public is welcome to come and watch its members play.


The goal of the Cook County Curling Club is that all skill levels are welcome to have a fun bonspiel experience. For a few teams, this was their first experience curling in a bonspiel.  A fun time was had by all.  After all curling in a bonspiel is not just about winning, it's the social interaction that everyone really enjoys.

The club will be hosting the Charles J. Futterer Open Memorial Bonspiel on March 10, 11 and 12 and that bonspiel will be the last one the club will host for the 2016-2017 season.

Results of the Champagne Bonspiel

The A Event winners were brothers Andrew and Jed Smith, Cook County Curling Club (CCCC).

A Event Runners-up: Shawn and Kelly Swearingen, CCCC

B Event Winners: Paul and Annie Burke, Port Arthur Curling Club

B Event Runners-up: Brian and Joanne Smith, CCCC

C Event Winners: Jim McDermott and Carroll Peterson, CCCC

C Event Runners-up: Duane Hasegawa and Barb Heideman, CCCC

D Event Winners: Don Fehr and Tom Fredeen, CCCC

D Event Runners-up: Zach and Amy Jones, Chaska Curling Club










Let the fun begin at Grand Portage Lodge and Casino

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 9:47am

After months of intensive construction, Grand Portage Lodge and

Casino is ready to open a completely new casino floor for players poised to try their luck on the North Shore.

With over 12,000 square feet of entertainment space, the new casino is bigger and better than ever.

Guests will find over 450 slot machines, featuring dozens of exciting new games like “Orange is the New Black,” the always festive “Gong Xi Fa Cai,” and true 3D magic on “Aladdin’s Fortune 3D.”

“Our new slot machines tend to be more comfortable for our players and, with interactive bonuses, offer a better overall gaming experience,” says Steven StandingCloud, casino manager. “We’re also thrilled to announce that blackjack is back in our gaming mix. In just a few weeks, our dealers will be ready to welcome guests to live action in our blackjack pit.”

Readily accessible from the towering three-story atrium and reception area, the casino is chock-full of upgraded services and amenities that include a streamlined deli and bar counter, self-serve beverage bar, a smartly appointed gift shop, spacious coat check, and nearby, plenty of comfortable, casual seating areas offering gorgeous views of Lake Superior and the North Woods.

The dramatic interior honors the indigenous culture of Grand Portage with robust exposed timbers, a floral beaded motif highlighted in custom carpet, a luminous wall evocative of the Aurora Borealis, and a stunning wood sculpture of the Little Cedar Spirit Tree anchoring the fireplace gathering area.

To ensure comfort, the new casino has a state-of-the-art ventilation system designed to virtually eliminate smoke and provide exceptional air quality.

“There’s no better place to play on the North Shore because Grand Portage Lodge and Casino is not just about gambling,” emphasizes Frank Vecchio, Grand Portage Lodge and Casino marketing manager.

“The new casino is part of a comprehensive three-phase renovation and expansion that has included an elegant renewal of all our hotel rooms and suites, a new fitness area, and a generous new pool

complex expected to be finished by late February with views and direct outdoor access to Portage Bay.”

Still to be completed in Phase 3 are new offices, a revitalization of the restaurant and lounge, as well as an event center with banquet and meeting rooms. The grand opening is slated for fall 2017.

The entire Grand Portage Lodge and Casino team will make final touches and relocate gaming machines while the current casino is closed for two days starting Sunday, Jan. 22 at 10:30 p.m.,

and opening again, bright and early, on Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 7 a.m. At that time, Grand Portage Lodge and Casino will roll out the red carpet for guests arriving under the colossal entrance

porte-cochère to play at the brand new casino. “We look forward to seeing you there,” said Vecchio.




Craig Hansen selected as superintendent of Grand Portage National Monument

Fri, 01/13/2017 - 1:53pm

Staff report

Craig Hansen, a 14-year veteran of the National Park Service, has been selected as the new superintendent of Grand Portage National Monument. He is currently superintendent of Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site in Stanton, North Dakota. Hansen begins his new assignment March 19, 2017.

“Craig has done an outstanding job at Knife River as superintendent, and I know his skills will transfer very well in helping lead Grand Portage into the future,” said Midwest Regional Director Cam Sholly. “I also want to thank Chairman Deschampe of the Grand Portage Band for working closely with us during this leadership selection process.” 

Tribal Chairman Norman Deschampe is pleased with the selection of Craig Hansen as superintendent and stated, “We look forward to welcoming Craig and his family to the community and to working with him and the park staff in our long-standing partnership with the Grand Portage National Monument.

Outgoing superintendent Tim Cochrane remarked, “I am delighted with this choice. I believe Craig is the right person for the job, blending the National Park Service’s skills in preservation and education with the talents and insights of the Grand Portage Band. The work we do together at Grand Portage is both nationally significant and wonderfully creative.”

Hansen, his wife Kasha, and their two children will move to the North Shore in the coming months. “We are thrilled to be joining the community at Grand Portage National Monument, and returning to the state where I began my career in the federal government,” Hansen said. “I look forward to working alongside the employees, volunteers, partners, and the Grand Portage Band to protect and share the important history and culture of Grand Portage National Monument.”  

Hansen began his federal career as a park ranger for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Minneapolis and northern Minnesota. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Recreation, Parks and Leisure Services through Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Ask A Trooper

Fri, 01/13/2017 - 1:31pm

By Sgt. Neil Dickenson of the Minnesota State Patrol

Question: What should I do about my neighbor who snow blows the snow from his driveway into the street? I do not know who to report this to. This morning I nearly had an accident sliding down our street.

Answer: There is a law that covers this issue. The state statute says that it is unlawful to obstruct any highway or deposit snow or ice on the road. This prohibits the plowing, blowing, shoveling or otherwise placing of snow on to public roads. This includes the ditch and right-of-way area along the roads.

There may be local ordinances against it as well.

Violations are considered misdemeanors, but civil liability also applies if the placement of snow creates a hazard, such as a slippery area, frozen rut or bump that contributes to a motor vehicle or pedestrian crash. The civil liability can extend to both the property owner and the person who placed the snow.

Report this type of violation to your local police or sheriff’s departments.

A portion of state statutes was used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Sgt. Neil Dickenson – Minnesota State Patrol at 1131 Mesaba Ave, Duluth, MN 55811.  (You can follow me on Twitter @MSPPIO_NE or reach me at


Dupre abandons attempt to climb Mount Hunter

Thu, 01/12/2017 - 3:22pm


After enduring several days of high winds, poor snow conditions, and brutal cold, Grand Marais adventurer Lonnie Dupre abandoned his attempt to become the first person to climb Mount Hunter in Alaska's Denali Park unaided and alone.

 Dupre was flown to Kahiltna glacier at the base of Mount Hunter on January 5 but unfortunately, couldn't begin his climb until high winds decreased.

On January 7 Dupre set across the glacier at the base of the mountain on skis, encountering large chunks of ice that encumbered his progress. When the terrain got too steep to ski, Dupre switched to making his way on foot with poles. Walking was difficult. The snow was waist deep, but Dupre couldn't plow through the snow because it had a thick crust. Making little progress and realizing he would have to camp among the ice falls, Dupre returned to his camp and relocated further north, seeking out a route with a steeper pitch. 

The next day Dupre sought an alternate way up the mountain but had to turn back.  According to his blog he climbed some steep, technical pitches, but did not have sufficient protection from falling rocks to continue. On his way down, Dupre broke through a bergschrund (a crevasse created where the glacier meets the mountain). With both feet dangling into the void, Dupre arrested the fall at shoulder level.

"With great effort and time, he managed to get himself and his backpack out of the crevasse. He was pretty shaken up," wrote his publicist, Stevie Anna Plummer. 

After enduring several days of brutal cold and high winds, Dupre started back for his landing strip.

At 14,573 feet Mount Hunter isn't exceptionally tall for mountaineers, but due to its steep pitch, nasty cold, high winds and often severe snow conditions, it is considered North America's most challenging 14,000-foot mountain to climb.

On December 30 Dupre wrote the following in his journal. "To say I'm not outright scared would be untrue. Hunter has me at the threshold of my capabilities. So many unknowns…climbing with a heavy pack, route, calories, storm days- and there will be some.

"I'm going to miss my life if I lose it; next to warm skin, wood fires, and tasty food. But what is life living in wait of warm bread out of the oven each day? It's not easy to leave; it's almost harder than the task ahead. There is so much to lose either way. Getting complacent at 55 is not a life for me: movement is life, seeing what is under the next rock is life, feeling the wind biting at my nose is life.

"Yet I stand to lose the fruits of life; great relationship, a cozy home, good friends, future dreams. I love life! Unfortunately one is often on the edge of losing it to experience the most of it. It's a big yin-yang. We have one life on this little blue planet, to hold back would be a waste."



The following content was contributed by WTIP North Shore Community Radio

Local Forest Service office aims to save by upgrading Internet capabilities

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 2:08pm

In a move that will ultimately save taxpayer money, the Gunflint Ranger District office has upgraded its Internet connection capabilities. The wiring and cables to allow the project to happen were recently installed along Highway 61 near the local Forest Service office in Grand Marais.

According to Debbie Brookins, the Supervisory Billing and Ordering Specialist based in Atlanta, Georgia, the hookup and installation of the 10M Ethernet service at the station cost the Forest Service $20,000. And while the actual project costs are much higher than that, the Forest Service is paying only $20,000 of the overall cost, while Century Link covers the rest. Brookins noted that the long-term savings will come in the form of a lower monthly bill to have Internet service at the local Forest Service office.

Funds for the installation of the new Internet service come from a general fund that the Forest Service delegates toward information and equipment upgrades. It does not come from the budget of the Gunflint Ranger District.

Construction crews have been lining Highway 61 near the Forest Service building for weeks as the cables were put in the ground. There was perhaps some confusion on the local level as to why CenturyLink was routing the fiber optic cables when True North already had a box on the Forest Service building for faster Internet.

Following the guidelines of a national contract, the Forest Service was required to use an AT&T affiliate to provide Internet to the station. In this case, CenturyLink is the third-party affiliate installing high-speed Internet to the Gunflint Ranger station. Brookins confirmed that True North was not an option for providing the faster Internet connection to the local Forest Service station due to the guidelines of the national contract with AT&T.

In addition to the confusion as to why Century Link was digging the ground to install the cables, there were also reports of local business owners not appreciating having to be impacted by the project. These reports include the closing of access to their business driveways while the construction crossed near their property.

Nancy Larson is the Gunflint District Ranger, USDA Forest Service, Superior National Forest. She said in a statement sent to WTIP that the local ranger district is “glad to have improved internet service at a cheaper rate to the Gunflint Ranger Station. Work productivity will be improved with the higher speeds as we work with data and large files for maps or use the internet for our work.  I regret any inconvenience the community experienced as contractors installed the line to our office in Grand Marais. We however, are very excited and believe we will be better able to serve the public in our stewardship of the national forest.” 

In addition to having faster Internet capabilities at the Gunflint Ranger Station, the Forest Service will be saving up to $700 per month later this year by having this new type of Internet service, according to Brookins. Again, this savings will come in the form of lower monthly bills for the Internet.

The Internet project at the Gunflint Ranger District station is expected to be completed soon. 

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WTIP Announces Call for Musicians for 2017 Radio Waves

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 1:33pm

WTIP is pleased to announce the call for musicians for the 10th Annual Radio Waves Music Festival - scheduled for September 8 to 10, 2017, at Sweetheart’s Bluff in the Grand Marais Recreation Area. This year’s event will once again highlight and celebrate the talents of a variety of local and regional acts.
“As this year marks the tenth anniversary of Radio Waves, it’s been exciting to watch how it has become a music festival for people of all ages to gather together with friends and family to listen to great local musicians,” says Matthew Brown, program director at WTIP.
The first Radio Waves Music Festival took place in 2008 as a “thank you” to the community in celebration of WTIP’s 10th anniversary. Through the years it has grown from a one-day event to an entire weekend, and from nine acts initially to nearly thirty. It’s held annually - rain or shine - the weekend after Labor Day and is a family-friendly favorite for both area residents and visitors.
Musicians interested in performing are asked to complete an online application, available on our website (just look for the "Radio Waves Application" button at the bottom of the home page). Applications will be accepted until May 1, with the lineup to be determined mid to late June. More information is available by emailing WTIP’s Program Director, Matthew Brown, at
And following is some additional information for those interested in applying: 

  • As part of the application process, we ask that you include an mp3 OR link to one of your songs.
  • This year we are asking that you include a bio and photo of the group (for use in our program guide, if you are accepted).
  • As with last year, most sets will be 50 minutes in length, with a few 35 minutes sets to help us balance the schedule out.
  • We will do our best to keep our line-up fresh each year, but it can be difficult as last year we had over 45 acts apply for just 30 spots.

Thank you for your interest in performing at this year's Radio Waves Music Festival!

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Warm January sets records all over state

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:55am

This stint of continued warm weather is setting records.  WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with National Weather Service Meteorologist Mike Stewart about a long January thaw.


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Hitting the trail before the Beargrease

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:45am

Established in 1980, the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is the longest sled dog race in the lower 48 states. It takes a lot of preparation to conduct this nearly 400-mile event. Rhonda Silence learns more in this interview with longtime volunteer, Mike Levig. Levig works at the marathon starting line and logs hundreds of miles on the Beargrease route each year placing signs. 

For the latest about the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, visit the website 


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LSProject: Winter studies of water along North Shore focus on the future

Sun, 01/22/2017 - 11:27am

A pair of studies focusing on the health of water in Lake Superior and the surrounding watersheds are the focus of this segment in the Lake Superior Project. WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs brings us this report on the studies and why they are important for the future of the North Shore’s clean water. 


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Weekend News Roundup for January 21

Sat, 01/21/2017 - 10:24am

Each week the WTIP news staff compiles a review of news from the previous five days. Travel to the ice caves is not safe. Wolves could be delisted again. There are invasive species in some imported rustic furniture and there’s plenty of shipping news on the Great Lakes…all this and more in the week’s news.


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