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North Shore Digest

North Shore Digest airs on WTIP Monday-Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. (hankoss/Flickr)

  • Monday 5-6pm
  • Tuesday 5-6pm
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News & Information
North Shore Digest airs from 5-6 p.m. weekdays and is the place to get caught up with what’s happening in your backyard and beyond, with international and national news from the Associated Press and local news from WTIP's News Department. The program always incorporates local announcements and events, significant interviews with local people and newsmakers, a mix of music, and features like National Native News, School News, and the Minnesota News Connection. 

What's On:
Former Cook County Sheriff, John Lyght

West End News: September 1

I was surprised to hear that Tom Spence, from Schroeder, has resigned as the West End representative to the board of directors of North Shore Health, also known until recently, as North Shore Hospital and Care Center.
 
I encourage any West End resident that has an interest, to apply to fill out Tom’s term of service. We are blessed with excellent health care facilities here in Cook County, with North Shore Health covering inpatient services and the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic providing a wide array of outpatient services. The governance of both of these organizations has a long history of excellence and is critically important to the well being of the whole county. Contact hospital adminstrator Kimber Wraalstad if you are interested in serving.
 
Over 100 former residents of the Taconite Harbor housing development gathered last week in a reunion organized by the Schroeder Area Historical Society. I wish the reunion hadn’t fallen on such a busy weekend, so I could have attended. Nevertheless, it was fun to hear all the familiar names from my youth. Sadly, two of my best friends from Tac Harbor, Floyd and Roger Maxfield, have already passed on. 
 
The decision to close and dismantle Taconite Harbor was made right after my dad, Frank Hansen, became the county commissioner for the West End. He fought hard to convince the company, LTV Mining, to reconsider removing the houses from Taconite Harbor. He even arranged a meeting with the President of LTV, but his efforts, and the best efforts of many other politicians and community members, came to nothing. He always felt the company had a hidden agenda when it came to closing down the housing site. Indeed, their stated goal of using the area to store bulk materials never came to pass. I guess we’ll never know now, but the good memories of the good people who lived there are still very much alive.
 
The Minneapolis Star Tribune ran a nice historical piece last week about former Cook County Sheriff, John Lyght. It was, of course, a complimentary piece about a remarkable man. As with most of John’s press over the years, the article emphasized John’s niche in history as the first African American sheriff in Minnesota. John, and indeed most county residents, never really paid much attention to that particular accomplishment. Instead, most of us who knew John well, remember him for his honesty, good humor and no nonsense air of authority. He was truly a peace officer, using his judgment and common sense to keep Cook County a peaceful community. Some of his methods were unconventional, but the proof of his success was in his popularity with the voters.
 
Everyone who had more than a passing acquaintance with John, has a story of some remarkable deed, usually involving John’s ability to quietly command respect in any situation. He was truly a West End original and will be remembered after most of us have been long forgotten.
 
Speaking of West End originals, a memorial service to celebrate the life of Rob McCampbell will be held at Pancore Lake on Saturday, September 17, at 11 am. Rob was a well known man-about-town in the West End. He had a keen wit and was a good friend to many, many people. To find his celebration, drive 12 miles up the Sawbill Trail, turn right on the Pancore Lake Road, go 3.5 miles and turn right on Erickson Trail. Knowing Rob as well as I did, I’m sure his memorial will include a lot of laughter along with the tears.
 
The interesting characters of the West End, both past and present, are a big part of what makes it such an interesting place to live.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.
 

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Historic Ranger Dwelling, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the U. S. Forest Service Tofte District compound

West End News: August 25

The U.S. Forest Service is holding a public open house at the historic Ranger’s Dwelling on the Tofte Ranger District compound on Sunday, August 28, from 11 am until 1 pm.

The Ranger’s Dwelling was a project of the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was part of the "New Deal" during the recovery from the Great Depression of the early 1930s. Recently, the beautiful log cabin has been undergoing extensive rehabilitation lead by the Superior National Forest and largely staffed by volunteers.

The open house also will serve as a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act, which has been responsible for saving and preserving so many historically significant buildings across our region. In addition to a guided tour of the cabin, there will be historical displays and historic photos of the West End.

The Civilian Conservation Corps was particularly active in Cook County during its existence from 1933 until 1942. It provided conservation jobs for unemployed men between the ages of 17 and 28. The goal was to provide immediate jobs, teach work skills, improve health and improve employability. The secondary goal was to complete long-term conservation projects and increase appreciation for the great outdoors and natural resources.

With the benefit of now considerable hindsight, it is clear that the CCC was one of most successful government relief programs ever. It provided work and dignity to 3 million young men who would have suffered without the program.

Up until about 20 years ago, we used to get a lot of former CCC members stopping in at Sawbill to reminisce about their days at the Sawbill CCC camp. Their praise for the program and the positive impact it had on their lives was universal. In fact, many respected Cook County families are the descendents of CCC workers who stayed on and made their lives in the area.

The CCC also ran separate programs for veterans and Native Americans, helping them to weather the Great Depression. Seventy percent of all the new enrollees in the CCC entered service either malnourished, poorly clothed, or both.

The scope of work done by the CCC is staggering. Enrollees planted 3 billion trees, some of which we now enjoy as mature forests right here in the West End. They constructed trails, portages, lodges and related facilities in more than 800 parks across the country. They built roads, did erosion control and upgraded most of America’s state parks. Many CCC projects, like the Tofte District Ranger Dwelling, are still in active use and benefiting America after all these years.

Many people, including me, are calling for a revival of the CCC, especially in times of economic downturn. It is truly a win, win, win concept in terms of human dignity, return on investment and national service. If Congress ever decides to start doing their jobs again, this would be a great place for them to start.

I should mention the existing Conservation Corps of Minnesota, which is a similar, if much more modest, program targeted at youth. This is a great program and another example of something that government can do exceptionally well.

This is the time of year when the tourism workers around the West End really kick it into high gear. Not only has this been a busy summer, but the seasonal workers who attend college are all leaving, so the remaining folks have to take up the slack. This means a lot of short-handedness at local resorts, retail and restaurants, so be patient and kind with the harried and overworked staffs. November will eventually arrive and we will all be able to draw a collective breath.

For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.

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Schoodic Point

Gus' Wild Side: An encounter at Schoodic Point

Acadia National Park is located along the coast of Maine. Gus worked at Acadia as a Park Ranger, and remembers a special story told by a visitor to this beautiful spot.

Gus’ Wild Side is a regular feature on WTIP. Gus writes about our connections to Nature as he explores wildness from the High Arctic to his own backyard along the North Shore of Lake Superior.

(Photo courtesy of Kim Carpenter on Flickr)

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A Year in the Wilderness: August 22 - Four boys and fall

Cook County adventurers Dave and Amy Freeman are spending a year in the wilderness. On a regular basis they’ll be sharing some of their experiences traveling the BWCAW.

(Photo courtesy of Dave and Amy's Facebook page)

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Some of Ontario's finest junior cross country skiers, relaxing at the Tofte General Store after a 20 mile roller skiing workout

West End News: August 18

Earlier this week, I was on the town run from Sawbill to Tofte. I had been driving on the brand new pavement for a couple of miles, when I was pleased and surprised to see two cross-country skiers on roller skis coming toward me. As they drew near, I could see that they were extremely fit and skilled young skiers. Their technique was flawless and they were flying down the road.

As I continued toward town, I was thinking that roller skiing is a great new use for the flawless new pavement. As I crested the next hill, here were two more skiers, equally fit and skilled, also cruising along at top-speed. Behind them came four more, then six, then a pack of 20 and then more than I could count. They were all young, fit and fast. Just before I got to Tofte, I saw a van covered with skiing stickers, so I stopped to get the lowdown.

It turned out to be an elite junior training program from the Lappi Nordic Centre near Thunder Bay. It was a joint training camp, so it included members of the Nordic Loppet Club of Minneapolis. There were 57 teenaged skiers, including one Junior Olympian, and a handful of coaches and assistants. The group stayed in Lutsen and Grand Marais for the long weekend, before moving over to Marquette, Michigan, for more training.

The coach I talked to said that he had chosen the Sawbill Trail for its two miles of almost continuous upslope, but when he scouted it two weeks ago, he was disappointed to see the black top ended at the top of the hill. Imagine his surprise when he came back last week to find 8 more miles of perfect asphalt. Many of the skiers took full advantage, skiing the entire 20 mile round trip. Both coaches and skiers were enthusiastic about the terrain, asphalt and relative lack of traffic. I must say, they were very polite and careful not to interfere with traffic. They told me that they would be back for future training camps, adding a small, unexpected economic boost from the brand new paving job.

The skiers I talked to had never skied the fabulous Sugarbush Trail system, although they had been biking on the single-track mountain bike trails and were enthusiastic about that system. Maybe it’s time for the West End to start thinking about a Nordic training center of our own?

I’d like to put in a plug for the Facebook group called “North Shore Tribe.” It seems to be mostly current and past North Shore residents who post contemporary and historical photos. The historical photos usually trigger a bunch of mini-memoirs from the older members of the group. It’s not only entertaining, but also a good historical record of everyday life on the North Shore over the last 60 years or so. It’s a public group, so anyone can see it – just search North Shore Tribe on Facebook.

Mark your calendars now for the 20th anniversary celebration at the North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum in Tofte. The weekend of September 3rd will include a lot of fishy fun on the museum plaza to celebrate the museum’s opening just 20 short years ago. There will be songs, storytelling around a campfire, kids games, fishcakes, fish recipes, fish sales, and tours of the museum and outdoor exhibits. Call 663-7050 for more details and times.

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Fall Lake

A Year in the Wilderness: August 15 - Visitors and Crickets

Cook County adventurers Dave and Amy Freeman are spending a year in the wilderness. On a regular basis they’ll be sharing some of their experiences traveling the BWCAW.

(Photo courtesy of Dave and Amy's Facebook page)

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Camp Finland kids study rare dragonflies

West End News: August 11

Birch Grove Community School invites one and all to their annual open house. This year it is on Tuesday, August 23, from 5 pm until 8 pm. This event is open to everyone, but is especially geared to families that would like to have their children attend Birch Grove. The open house includes informal conversation with teachers and staff, a tour, a bouncy house in the gym and a free pizza bake in the outdoor wood-fired oven.
 
Birch Grove serves kids for pre-school, starting at the age of three, on up through the fifth grade. It is an award winning program and the opportunity to give your child an excellent education with a lot of personal attention from their teachers. I can vouch for this because I’m the proud parent of two Birch Grove graduates.
 
For more information, you can contact Diane Blanchette at 663-0170 or email birchgrove@boreal.org.
 
There is a great report out of Finland from the Camp Finland program that runs out of the Clair Nelson Community Center every summer. Among many other activities, the kids got to capture and identify dragonflies with DNR biologist, Kurt Mead. Kurt reports that there are about a hundred known species of dragon and damselflies in the Finland area.
 
Kurt expected that most of the captured insects would be the more common varieties, but was surprised by how many of netted flies were uncommon or rare. The predominant damselfly that the kids were catching was the Aurora damsel, which has only been documented in Lake County once before. Another exciting find was the Ski-tailed Emerald Dragonfly. The last time this species was found in Lake County was in 1920!
 
Reports of the outing will be included in a national database and a few species have been donated to the University of Minnesota Insect Collection in St. Paul. Although the kids had a lot of fun chasing dragonflies around on a warm, windy day, they did real science that will advance everyone’s knowledge of these fascinating and beautiful creatures. If you want to see the full dragonfly report, go to the website: friendsoffinland.org.
 
While I’m thinking about the excellent Clair Nelson Community Center, let me remind you of the Finland Farmer’s Market that takes place every Thursday from 5 until 6:30 pm through the first Thursday in October. 
 
The entire West End community is saddened by the passing of Craig Spates, who was a long time resident of Lutsen. Craig was a true character in a community that isn’t short on characters. When my son, Carl, was about four, he used to call Craig “that really ugly guy.” That sounds sort of cruel, but Carl really, really liked Craig, and actually meant “that very interesting looking guy.”
 
Craig was a mainstay in the community, working for decades in almost every capacity at the ski hill among a host of other jobs. He was an intelligent man with many interests, two of which I shared with him - music and politics. Craig was a big music fan and a unique and original musician and songwriter. He was also a dyed in the wool Democrat who followed all levels of politics closely. He had a deep understanding of the issues and the complex political dynamics that surround them.
 
Craig was a friend to everyone he met and the West End is a less interesting place without him.

(Photo courtesy of Camp Finland)
 

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Gunflint Woods, Winds and Strings Concert - August 14

The 4th annual concert features vocal and instrumental classical and jazz music to benefit the Gunflint Trail Historical Society and the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department. The concert is held in the cold storage building with a reception to follow in the Schaap Community Center adjacent to Fire Hall #1 at Poplar Lake.

The concert will also feature a commissioned piece composed by Bill Beckstrand.

More information and reservations are available at Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center, 218-388-9915

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A Year in the Wilderness: August 9 - Girl Scouts

Cook County adventurers Dave and Amy Freeman are spending a year in the wilderness. On a regular basis they’ll be sharing some of their experiences traveling the BWCAW.

(Photo courtesy of Dave and Amy's Facebook page)

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Dr. Seth Moore

Dr. Seth Moore: Should moose be listed as a federal Endangered Species?

Dr. Seth Moore is Director of Biology and Environment with the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. 

The Grand Portage Reservation is located in the extreme northeast corner of Minnesota, on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Cook County. Bordered on the north by Canada, on the south and east by Lake Superior and on the west by Grand Portage State Forest, the reservation encompasses an historic fur trade site on scenic Grand Portage Bay.

The band engages in fisheries and wildlife research projects throughout the year, working with moose, wolves, fish, deer, grouse, and environmental issues. Dr. Moore appears regularly on WTIP North Shore Community Radio, talking about the band's current and ongoing natural resource projects, as well as other environmental and health related issues. 

In this segment, Dr. Moore talks about the impacts of listing moose under the Endangered Species Act.

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