Summer 2018 brings color to Range communities

The Hawkins Mine Overlook in Nashwauk, Minnesota (PHOTO: Aaron J. Brown)

I drive through Nashwauk, Minnesota, most days. It’s a nice little town, but a little worn down. That’s not unusual for the cities of the western Mesabi Iron Range.

These boom towns bloomed in a white pine wilderness a century ago, each at the mouth of a specific iron mine. Now that mining is more automated and centralized, these towns find themselves designed for an outdated purpose.

After years of decline, I’m happy to see the towns of the Iron Range finally seek new purpose within their historical footprint.

Case in point, good old Nashwauk. I met someone at the Hawkins Mine Overlook for an interview recently. The Hawkins Mine closed in 1962 after 60 years of underground and pit mining. Miners left behind an enormous pit lake slowly being reclaimed by nature.

The beauty of the Hawkins pit always amazes me, along with the fact that you have to clamber up a stairway in a dirt lot to see it. Most people who drive through Nashwauk never see it.

Well, that’s changing. This summer, the Hawkins Pit Overlook will undergo remodeling making it a more important part of Nashwauk’s downtown. The Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation is funding a downtown corridor project there.

From the June IRRRB newsletter:

The [Hawkins Mine} overlook will receive a new elevated viewing deck with an ADA-accessible ramp, kiosks with historical and project donor information, a picnic area and mini mine-themed children’s park, bike racks, and a refurbished parking lot. The project will be completed this fall, and a second phase renovation is being considered that could include a pavilion.

The IRRRB has quietly been focusing on aesthetic improvements across the Iron Range these last few years, something finally taking shape.

Meantime, the Iron Range Tourism Bureau opens the Art of Community Project this summer. Downtown storefronts in nine Mesabi Range cities will feature original artwork centered on the theme, “Looking Forward:
Creating and Celebrating the Future of the Mesabi.”

Towns involved include Hibbing, Chisholm, Mountain Iron, Virginia, Eveleth, Gilbert, Biwabik, Aurora and Hoyt Lakes.

Cities and organizations across the Range continue to make progress on the aesthetic needs of local communities. This becomes especially important for city centers. Doing so remains one of the most obvious, affordable and visible ways to show pride in community. That’s how we attract new businesses, residents and visitors.

When we of the Iron Range believe in ourselves, others will believe in us, too — including the next generation of pioneers.

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