Hill Annex Mine State Park to change … but how?

Hill Annex State Park pit (PHOTO: McGhiever, Wikimedia Commons)

Rumors of the demise of Hill Annex Mine State Park have abounded for a long time. For one thing, it’s an odd state park. Hill Annex serves as more of a museum of mining history coupled awkwardly with a massive trove of pre-historic fossils. (The amount of fossils blown to smithereens in the history of the Mesabi Iron Range would make an archeologist cry blood). As state resources have become harder to come by, the park often finds itself the subject of doomsday speculation. Already, hours at the park were cut to bare minimum.

Well, officials have now essentially agreed that Hill Annex will leave the state park system and enter a new phase of life. And that new future will probably not involve being a park, at least not in the way it is now.

This according to a Nov. 25 Grand Rapids Herald Review story by Kassandra Tuten.

Change is coming

The state legislature set June 30, 2019 as the end of funding for the park under its current structure. Several stake-holding organizations and community members have been meeting this past year to determine an alternate way to manage the site. These meetings, perhaps unsurprisingly, have not revealed a funding source for regular park operations.

But people do like what the park has to offer, which is why they’re looking at new uses. Perhaps Hill Annex could become a prominent stop along the Mesabi Trail, maybe even offering recreational opportunities. Perhaps it could be a site for future economic development. Or, perhaps, other museums and parks could use it for selective programming, like a satellite of sorts.

One thing I’ve learned isn’t on the docket, at least in the near future: the resumption of mining at the Hill Annex site. While iron ore remains under the site, extracting it would be costly. Not only is the ore deeper, the vein runs under the city of Calumet. Though the new Chippewa Capital/ERP iron ore projects along the western Mesabi could mine near Calumet, there is no immediate plan involving the Hill Annex site.

What next?

Hill Annex remains a striking visual panorama, reminding of the region’s history and providing space for future recreation. Here’s hoping they figure it out.

A public meeting to discuss the future of Hill Annex will be held from 4-6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, at the Calumet City Hall.

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