Another year has passed and 2019 had many highlights in Lake County. The following are a sample of newsworthy events, in chronological order:
The Two Harbors High School DECA chapter kicked off “Find The Kind,” a social media based random acts of kindness campaign, on Wednesday, Jan. 2, with a large rally in the auditorium at the end of the school day. The campaign gained global attention, reaching over 2.5 million people in 35 countries, including Gov. Tim Walz. The campaign received the Minnesota Rural Education Association 2019 Profile of Excellence award on Nov. 18.
In mid-February the Two Harbors Curling Club hosted the 2019 U.S. Curling Association’s Junior National Curling Championships. The event brought more than 300 players, coaches, officials and spectators to Two Harbors as the nation’s top curlers age 22 and younger competed for a gold medal. It also offered people a chance to see a preview of U.S. Olympic hopefuls.
This year was the first in Two Harbors history to have three female members of the Two Harbors City Council: Robin Glaser as council president, Cathy Erickson, ward 3, and Jackie Rennwald as councilor at-large.
Lee Radzak, the longtime resident historic site manager at Split Rock Lighthouse, announced his retirement in February, and officially retired in April, after 36 years. Radzak’s successor is Hayes Scriven, former executive director of the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center in Superior.
Mike Guzzo retired from coaching hockey after over 30 years coaching in Silver Bay and the last five coaching the North Shore Storm. Rep. Pete Stauber took time to honor the retiring coach on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on March 8.
The Lake County Board of Commissioners formed a committee to explore the implementation of a county-wide 4% lodging tax on Feb. 26. The county received legislative approval in May. Since then, the commissioners have heard public feedback via visits to board meetings and public listening sessions. The board has yet to take action on the implementation of the tax.
Bills were introduced in the Minnesota House and Senate in March to remove the production cap that prohibits breweries that produce more than 20,000 barrels of beer per year from selling off-sale growlers or crowlers out of the brewery’s taproom. The bills were ultimately dropped from the legislation, forcing Two Harbors’ Castle Danger to cease selling growlers as of Sept. 30.
A group of Knife River residents presented fellow community members with their vision for the town's old train depot on March 19 at the Knife River Recreation Center. A group of volunteers spent five to six hours a day working four days a week to restore the old building throughout the summer. The depot has a new roof, a reinforced chimney, a repaired foundation and new and/or newly painted siding. Window replacement continues. The depot was used to sell tickets for the Troll Train during Julebyen in December.
The city of Silver Bay celebrated the groundbreaking for the Black Beach Municipal Campground project April 15, after nearly five years of anticipation. The facility will be a 49-site campground with 30-amp electric service in all sites, picnic tables, fire rings, restroom and bathhouse facilities, a playground and access to walking trails that will lead to the beach.
April 30 marked 10 years since the tree commonly known as "The Honking Tree," a white pine in the median near the end of the Two Harbors Expressway, was cut down by yet unknown culprits. The tree earned its nickname due to a community tradition of motorists honking as they passed the tree while returning to the North Shore. For the past 10 years, the planned tree memorial has yet to appear and the wood has been sitting in a chainsaw artist’s garage just outside of town.
The Lake View Hospital and Medical Clinic in Two Harbors celebrated the start of a $15 million expansion project on May 7. The new two-level, 36,000-square-foot building will link the hospital and clinic, provide a single entrance, include a public meeting center with room for up to 90 people, and will have an expanded inpatient pharmacy.
In the final closing sale on June 3, Lake Connections was sold to Pinpoint Holdings, Inc., for $8.4 million, and control over the high speed broadband system was handed over. Management was then passed over to Zito Media, which eventually took over the franchise agreements. The transition from Lake Connections to Zito was rough with reported outages and connection trouble.
Officer Scott Kochendorfer was sworn in as assistant chief of police by Mayor Scott Johnson during the city council meeting on July 1 at city hall. He spent a month learning the ropes from retiring chief Douglas Frericks. Kochendorfer was sworn in as the new chief on Aug. 5.
In June, the Forest Service presented Lake County with its 2018 Boundary Waters appraisal, which included a 63% reduction in value for the Boundary Waters as a whole. Previously, the county received approximately $2.6 million annually. With the 63% reduction, the county was set to receive $1.3 million annually. The county would have to raise the levy by 12% to make up the lost revenue. The county later approved a 6% levy increase to offset the expected loss. The U.S. Forest Service will reappraise the BWCAW and while the new appraisal process is underway, the Forest Service will continue to make payments to the impacted counties based on the 2008 appraisal.
Company officials and politicians cut the ribbon on $100 million in upgrades at the Northshore Mining processing facility in Silver Bay on Aug. 7. The upgrades will allow the facility to produce pellets that will be used in electric arc furnaces.
The Two Harbors Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors made the decision to change the name of the chamber to the Lake County Chamber of Commerce on Aug. 7.
The American Legion nationally and locally celebrated its first century in November. The organization was also marking the passage of the LEGION (Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service) act, which changes the Legion’s eligibility dates to now be open to all who served during WWI and all veterans since Dec. 7, 1941 with at least one day of honorable federal service.
The Two Harbors Light Signal went dark Monday, Nov. 25. A group of four volunteers with the Lake County Historical Society known as the "Light Keepers" were called upon to diagnose the problem and find a solution. The oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the North Shore has yet to alight again.