Val Chatel property donated to Hubbard County

Map courtesy of The Trust for Public Land
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The former Val Chatel ski area is officially in county hands.

A March 8 news release from The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced that the property, located about four miles north of Emmaville, has been successfully donated to Hubbard County for management.

TPL acquired the land with support from a generous anonymous private donor. Hubbard County will convert the site into a year-round recreational park.

Dubbed Deep Lake Park, it is expected to be open to the public sometime during summer 2024.

The 352-acre property includes the entire shoreline of Deep Lake and a smaller unnamed lake. “The property connects large blocks of existing county lands and a 2,560-acre parcel with multiple trails that is planned to be added to the Paul Bunyan State Forest,” according to the release.


‘An incredible opportunity’“Val Chatel has had a big impact on this area and this is an incredible opportunity to once again make this special place available for public enjoyment for years to come,” said Bob McGillivray, land protection director for TPL, based in St. Paul. “Protecting this property will not only expand public access to outdoor recreational opportunities, it will also help preserve the natural resources that make the Northwoods such an important ecosystem.”

Trails for hiking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and mountain biking are proposed for Deep Lake Park.

It will also serve as a connector to the North Country Trail, located a mile to the north, and the Itasca-Heartland Connection Trail, which will be several miles to the west.

A variety of campsites will be constructed, along with a launch for non-motorized water recreation, such as canoes and kayaks.

The news release states, “The property has a high biodiversity significance with a variety of forest cover including towering old growth white and red pines. The majority of the land will be left largely natural, but there will be ample trails and two smaller areas where limited development will be allowed.”

“This will be an incredible opportunity for Hubbard County to develop a recreational area that will have a tremendous regional impact, not only for our residents, but also for the people that visit our area every year,” said Hubbard County Land Commissioner Mark Lohmeier. “Hubbard County would like to thank Bob McGillivray and the rest of the dedicated people at Trust for Public Land that work tirelessly to preserve and protect these very special places, and a very special thank you to the generous donor that cares deeply enough for the natural world to provide the funding to share it with the rest of us. We hope this park will reflect their strong environmental ethic for decades to come.”

TPL says the climate, landscape, watershed and recreational benefits that will occur as a result of the protection of this property are “directly in alignment” with the goals of its Forever Northwoods program.

According to the website, TPL established Forever Northwoods to “protect the iconic landscapes of northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan and preserve a heritage that is at risk of disappearing. This landscape encompasses millions of acres of forest, thousands of wild rivers, streams and lakes, and the northern Great Lakes—all within a day's drive of more than 40 million people.”


TPL is a national, nonprofit land conservation organization that “conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come.”

A work in progress

The county has been working with TPL since July 2021 to acquire the site.

In August 2021, the county hired SRF Consulting Group, Inc. of Minneapolis to develop a master plan for the new county park.

In December 2021, the Hubbard County Board approved a land protection donation agreement with the TPL. The agreement includes a list of deed restrictions to protect the property and help to preserve the nature of the area.

In January 2022, the county sent an application to Greater Minnesota Recreation Parks and Trails Commission requesting that Deep Lake Park be designated as a regional park or trail. Earning regional status opens up funding sources for development of the recreational park.

Next, the plan will be submitted to the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission (GMRPTC) for possible inclusion in the regional parks system.

Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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