Greenwood Township Community Inventory

john klaers planning & associates
Community Inventory
2015 Greenwood Township Comprehensive Plan
John Klaers Planning

Revised July 9, 2015

Revised August 28, 2015

Revised September 14, 2015

Revised October 23, 2015



A review of existing conditions in the community regarding land use, population, transportation, housing, public services, communication, education, environment, culture, recreation, zoning, soils, mining and forest management.






Local Transportation. 5

Regional Transportation. 7

  2. HOUSING.. 10
  5. EDUCATION.. 20
  6. RECREATION.. 21
  7. CULTURE.. 23
  10. ZONING.. 30
  11. SOILS. 32

Maps 1-6. 33

Appendix A.  Analysis of Gaps Between Greenwood Zoning and Lake Vermilion Plan Mitigating Measures

Appendix B. Greenwood Wastewater Treatment Systems 2005 – 2015

Appendix C.1983 Greenwood Township Goal and Policy Plan

Appendix D. Lake Vermilion Nutrient Budget







Greenwood Townships’ landscape is unique and varied throughout the community.  Even though Lake Vermilion stretches 40 miles end to end, covering 39,271 acres and is the fifth largest lake in Minnesota, it seems more like a series of smaller, connected lakes because of the many islands, peninsulas and bays that shape the water surface.  Greenwood has 14 named bays and more than 20 islands both large and small.  Places like Pike Bay, Everetts Bay, Daisy Bay, Black Duck Bay, Greenwood Bay, Frazer Bay, and Big Bay to name a few.  Larger islands include Smart, Niles, Wolf, Pine, Isle of Pines, Comet and Knots islands.

Greenwood Township encompasses 92.3 square miles consisting of open water (34.1 square miles) and upland and wetlands (58.2 square miles).  Most townships cover a 36 square mile area in the form of a six mile square.  Greenwoods boundaries are irregular and were created by the initial township organization in 1977 and two Petitions for Boundary Change in 1993 and 1997.

The impetus for organizing the town in 1977 was demand for fire department and emergency response personnel, followed by local control of planning and zoning in 1980.  The areas that were added by Boundary Change Petition were also seeking fire department coverage and improved fire insurance ratings.


Northeast quadrant:  Township 63 N, Range 16 West

Southeast quadrant:  Township 62 N, Range 16 West



Northwest quadrant: Township 63 N, Range 17 West

Southwest quadrant: Township 62 N, Range 17 West


Trout Lake and the northeast corner of Greenwood, is in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).  The north boundary and northwest corner of Greenwood is in surrounded by the Kabetogama and Superior National Forests.  The southeast portion of Greenwood contains the Bois Forte Reservation and Fortune Bay Casino Resort.

The northeast and southeast pieces of Greenwood are significantly larger than the two western pieces as shown on all the maps in this report.

Greenwood’s neighbors include Breitung Township and the City of Tower to the east and southeast, Vermilion Lake Township and unorganized areas to the south, Pfieffer Lake, Beatty Township and the Angora unorganized areas to the west and more unorganized communities and the City of Cook to the northwest.  (Cook does not border Greenwood.)  During the warm weather months of the year Greenwood is the largest community in the area.

Greenwood‘s population density of 15.6 persons per square mile is misleading.  The shoreline housing densities are considerably higher but are only fully occupied for less than 6 months of the year.  The early subdivision plats had the greatest lot density (smallest lot size) and over time lot sizes increased consistent with zoning requirements.  The subdivision plats of Birch Point, Dells and Daisy Island are among the oldest subdivision plats in Greenwood.

Greenwood’s business community is anchored by at least eleven operating resorts including RV parks and camp grounds.  The business list also includes three restaurants, several marinas/barge operators, a dock manufacturer, and boat service/repair companies.  Off lake, there are other businesses such as storage unit rentals, small engine repair, auto and truck repair.

Fortune Bay Casino and Resort is the prominent business in Greenwood and serves as the most significant draw to the area.  No other community in the area has an attraction equal to Fortune Bay.  The casino and golf course are supported by 118 hotel rooms, a 5,000 square foot conference center, a 225 seat restaurant and other small restaurants, a swimming pool, fitness center and walking trails, all on Lake Vermilion.

The Fortune Bay Casino and Resort hotel, restaurants and golf course create year round employment opportunities with over 500 jobs adding $30 million dollars into the region’s economy.

First inhabited by nomadic Native American tribes as early as 1650, Lake Vermilion was initially an outpost in the wilderness along a trade route that connected Hudson Bay to Lake Superior during the fur trade era.  In 1865, a brief gold rush started and opened the area to more intense exploration. Once the Vermilion Trail was constructed from Duluth to bring people and supplies to the mining claims, Lake Vermilion was no longer a little known place.

The regions’ landscape was forever altered by the discovery of iron ore, followed by logging of the areas native white pine forests.   Mining and logging brought more people to Lake Vermilion and they built settlements and homesteads.  Most of Greenwood’s early shoreline was first disturbed by logging, followed by commercial resorts and eventually seasonal cabins.  Lake Vermilion’s first resorts and lodges were primarily constructed during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  They soon gained a widespread reputation for outstanding hunting, fishing and scenic hospitality.

Today, Greenwood’s Lake Vermilion shoreland areas are dominated by high and low density seasonal cabins and year round homes.  Greenwood has the highest concentrations of lakeshore housing, (seasonal and year round) of all the communities on the lake. Some of the more developed areas include Birch Point with Daisy Bay on the north and Big Bay on the south side, the north side of Daisy Bay includes Breezy Point, and Fectos Point on Frazer Bay, and the mainland leading to Arrowhead Point, all have housing densities between 2-4 units per acre.

Most of the seasonal cabins were constructed during the 1940’s and 1950’s.  The strong trend to develop lakeshore, seasonal, recreational housing continued into the 1970s and at that time St. Louis County had over 6,900 seasonal recreational cabins.

The 2015 Greenwood Land Use Map reflects those historic trends showing most properties in the community are seasonal lakeshore residential.  Shoreland lots range in size from less than one half acre to an acre or more.  Shoreland commercial development is primarily related to on lake activities such as boating, fishing, snowmobiling, camping and seasonal cabin rentals.   Clearly, Lake Vermilion is the focus and the interrelationships between housing and recreation create demand for the lakeshore commercial uses.

Greenwood overall is a collection of small lakeshore neighborhoods built along bays, peninsulas and islands, and surrounded by large tracts of public forest and wetlands.  Island and remote mainland Lake Vermilion properties in Greenwood are only accessible from the lake via a public access, marina, or mainland lot.  The process of moving goods and people to and from seasonal and year round residential properties on islands supports local marinas, and barge operators.

Light industrial activity is mostly confined to small off lake operations and the most visible light industrial use in Greenwood is gravel mining.  Sand and gravel mining excavations occur at 14 separate sites in Greenwood on parcels where less than 40 acres have been disturbed.

Historic records for Greenwood are limited because the Town was not organized until September 26, 1977.  Prior to that date Greenwood was an unorganized area of northern St. Louis County on Lake Vermilion with a significant summer time population and no local government to provide needed services.


Local Transportation


Greenwood’s shoreland properties are served by a network of public county roads, U.S. Forest Service roads, Minnesota DNR roads and private road segments.  SLC maintains a system of blacktopped roads serving Greenwood properties including Lake Vermilion Reservation Road, Everett Bay Road, Birch Point Road, Breezy Point Road, Fectos Road, Arrowhead Point Road and Frazer Bay Road to name a few.

Other local roads are gravel surfaced and receive minimal annual maintenance from the town or other sponsoring agencies like the U.S. Forest Service or MDNR.  The local road system extends primarily along the west and south sides of Lake Vermilion following the peninsulas and bays.  The north eastern shore of Lake Vermilion is largely inaccessible by road.  Some development on Lake Vermilion, including islands can be accessed during the winter on plowed paths across the ice or by snowmobile.

Most Greenwood properties are served by either a county road or a private road.  Greenwood has a road standard for new roads but does not hold many easements for township roads.  Because its road system was inherited from the County and built to varying standards the town is reluctant to accept responsibility for maintaining roads that would likely require improvement before they could be accepted for township maintenance responsibility.  Property owners served by private roads are allowed to hire local construction companies for needed improvements.  Costs are shared by the benefiting property owners.

Roads in Greenwood Township are connected to the rest of Minnesota and St. Louis County by State Highway 169.  Highway 169 extends east from U.S. Trunk Highway 53, 17 miles to the intersections of State Highway 169 and SLC highways 115 and 77 at the” Y” Store, and then on to Tower and Ely.

Virginia, Minnesota is the largest city closest to Greenwood accessed via Trunk Highway 53.  This north/south segment links to Duluth where it meets with Interstate 35 before crossing into Wisconsin.

Greenwood Township relies on County Road 77 and County Road 115 as the primary “arterial roads” for the Township. These roads are the responsibility of the St. Louis County Highway Department for planning and traffic issues, and St. Louis County Public Works Department for maintenance.  Both roads are currently in good condition with no major issues related to traffic or bridges.  The County is working on an old segment of County Road 77 that will be turned over to the Township in the future.

The county long range transportation plan that guides the expenditure of funds for highway improvements does not currently include any significant projects for either roadway.  Chip sealing of County 77 could be a possibility in the next five years.  County 115 is being reviewed for needs and may require a scrub seal in the next several years.

The shortest distance from Point A to Point B on Lake Vermilion is often across the lake by boat or snowmobile.

Greenwood and Lake Vermilion are also home to seaplane bases that service the areas float planes.


Regional Transportation


Greenwood is also located in Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Maintenance District 1.  The District has two major projects planned for State Highway 169 and one project along Trunk Highway 53, in the Virginia area, in their short range plan.

The major project on TH 169 is the proposed reconstruction of 5.7 miles between Tower and Ely.  This winding, hilly stretch of road has problems with shading during the winter forming ice on the roadway and lacks other modern traffic safety attributes.  The proposed reconstruction project will straighten the road, and install dedicated turn lanes.  The project will improve capacity and traffic safety, cost $20 million dollars and take three years to complete.  The construction plan is currently under review at the state and federal levels for environmental impacts. The project could be ready for bid in late 2015 or early 2016.

To the south and west along State Highway 169, MNDOT will be working on the “Cross Range Expressway between Grand Rapids and Hibbing with funding from the state’s new “Corridors of Commerce” program. The Expressway project will add 1.55 miles of four lane highway from the Bovey exit to County Road 7.

The Trunk Highway 53 project calls for relocation of a segment of Highway 53 to allow an iron ore mine expansion. The $220 million dollar project will construct a 1,100 foot bridge between Eveleth and Virginia.  The project is scheduled for construction in 2016 and 2017.

The State Highway 169 projects will ultimately enhance traffic flow, improve safety and eliminate bottlenecks.  The US Trunk Highway 53 relocation project appears to a necessary action to allow access to iron ore deposits under the current highway right-of-way.

Looking long range, MNDOT District 1 is in a “preservation mode” as are most public road authorities in northern Minnesota, including St. Louis County.  The regional population is not expanding and driving habits are changing to reflect fewer licensed drivers in old and young age groups.

The Long Range Transportation Plan for the Duluth area identifies a trend that sees “more people moving further away from concentrations of employment and commercial activity resulting in more vehicle miles being driven in the area”.  The plan cites a 3% decrease in 15 minute or less commutes and notes the average commute is 20 minutes or more.

MNDOT District 1 highway improvement projects will not directly affect Greenwood but indirectly there could be short and long term impacts in rental housing and recreational activity on and off the lake.  The State Highway 169 project will temporarily impact traffic between Greenwood and Ely as construction detours delay traffic.  The same will be true for the TH 53 project that can also delay and discourage local traffic during construction.  When completed all, of these projects will enhance vehicular access to and from Greenwood.



There are less than 1,000, year round, permanent residents of Greenwood in 2015.  Greenwood’s population grows significantly during the summer months when the owners of seasonal properties return and the local resorts, RV parks and campgrounds are filled with visitors.  During the summer the Greenwood area is a bee hive of activity as residents, seasonal property owners and visitors enjoy the lake and the other attractions available in the immediate area.


Year Population Households Seasonal Total Housing units
2013 952 483* 2,028* 2,511*
2010 939 533* 1,171* 1,704
2000 905 423 1,188 1,611
1990 515 N/A N/A 1,372
1980 565 N/A N/A N/A

* Estimate based on SLC Auditors Office data

Table 3-1 is a combination of historical census population and household counts and SLC Auditors Office data.  The starred numbers are “estimates using” the information in Table 4-1 to estimate seasonal households and total housing units available from census counts of households.

Greenwood’s greatest population and household increases occurred between 1990 and March 2000.  During the period 1990 to 2000 Greenwood gained 390 new residents or an average of 39 people per year.  Using a household size of 2.18 persons, there would have been 179 new households added to the community or an average of 18 per year for the decade.

The economy was strong in comparison to today (2015) and this period would also coincide with development of the Fortune Bay Casino and Resort.  The Casino project started in 1989 with expansion of the casino, continued into 1996 with construction of the resort and was substantially complete in 2004 when the golf course was constructed.   That development brought workers to the area along with the permanent staff to operate the facility.

The building permit and population information to confirm that growth period is only partially available because of missing building permit records and unavailable census data.  Greenwood was not a “Named Place” in some of the 1980 Census data tables.

The Minnesota State Demographers Office makes annual estimates of population, households and household size for all Minnesota Cities and Towns.  The demographer uses information the state routinely collects to “estimate” local population changes.  The data for Greenwood is shown in Table 3-2.  This table shows the greatest change occurred between 1996 and 1997 when the population increased by 140 people because of a boundary change that added property from Township 63 N, Range 17 West and Township 62 N, Range 17 West.

The 2010 Census counted 230 Native Americans living in Greenwood which was 24.49% of the total year round population of 939.  The Bois Forte Tribe is developing housing on their land for tribal members.

Ethnically in Greenwood, the most common lineage is Native American (24.49%) Finnish (21.2%), followed by German (12.5), Swedish (10%), and Norwegian (9.6%).  The most common place for foreign born residents is Canada at 71% and Eastern Europe at 29%.


The median age for all of St. Louis County is 43 and the median ages for Virginia, Eveleth, and Gilbert are slightly older by two to three years while Greenwood’s median age is 53 years.


Greenwood’s homestead (year round) population is growing in number and older in age.  Based on U.S. 2010 Census population data Greenwood is viewed as “a desirable rural location, with high home values, very low rents, and very low unemployment” as compared to other political jurisdictions in St. Louis County and the state.







1990 515 N/A N/A
1991 513 N/A N/A
1992 521 N/A N/A
1993 527 N/A N/A
1994 545 N/A N/A
1995 569 N/A N/A
1996 583 N/A N/A
1997 723 N/A N/A
1998 742 N/A N/A
1999 753 N/A N/A
2000 905 423 2.13
2001 919 433 2.12
2002 921 436 2.11
2003 894 427 2.09
2004 914 440 2.07
2005 913 443 2.06
2006 904 447 2.02
2007 905 451 2.01
2008 896 448 2.0
2009 892 445 2.0
2010 939 431 2.18
2011 947 434 2.18
2012 938 430 2.18
2013 933 428 2.18



4.     HOUSING


Housing in Greenwood is primarily shoreland residential, either year round homes or seasonal recreational dwellings.  In the past 20 years the majority of new construction was for new, year round single family homes or conversion of seasonal cabins to year round homes. Yet the number of property owners claiming a homestead exemption continues to decline annually according to information provided by the St. Louis County Auditor’s office.

Table 4-2 shows the information provided by the St. Louis County Auditor’s office for homestead and non homestead seasonal property, for the period 1995 through April of 2015.



1996 1415 Not available 419 Not available
1997 1956 541 492 73
1998 1945 -11 505 13
1999 1939 -6 515 10
2000 1939 0 537 22
2001 1917 -22 573 36
2002 2189 272 563 -10
2003 2171 -18 570 7
2004 2242 71 569 -1
2005 2249 7 584 15
2006 2238 -11 604 20
2007 2240 2 595 -9
2008 2246 6 585 -10
2009 2263 17 578 -7
2010 1974 -289 533 -45
2011 1988 14 520 -13
2012 2015 27 497 -23
2013 2028 13 483 -14
2014 2059 31 460 -23
2015 2046 -13 447 -13


Seasonal property counts for 1997 reflect Boundary Additions (referenced in Section 1 Land Use) that brought more seasonal and year round properties to Greenwood.  Discounting the seasonal counts for 1997 and 2002, because of Boundary Additions, the data shows seasonal properties increased by 318 parcels, or an average of almost 29 units per year, between 1998 and 2009.

The same period saw homestead property increase by only 73 units, for an average of 6.64 units per year.

The Auditors data shows an upward trend in the number of seasonal properties and a steady downward trend in homestead properties.

Greenwood does not have a building inspection department and the State of Minnesota building code governs electrical and plumbing requirements for residential and commercial structures in rural St. Louis County.  Greenwood does issue Land Use permits for new construction, additions to existing buildings and other improvements such as garages, decks, and boat houses.  A review of permit records for the period 1990 to 2015 is reflected in Chart A

Chart A is missing 7 years of data but still illustrates a strong local economy that saw more new construction than any other community in the Lake Vermilion watershed. It also shows significant investment in major improvements to existing properties.  2005 was the apparent banner year for new construction at over 30 units which could have been either a seasonal or year round structure.  Also, it’s important to note that Greenwood property owners can convert a seasonal property to a year round home and still not make it their permanent or homestead residence.

The data suggests that older residents and property owners are seeking more comfort from a seasonal structure that may be available for a longer season. Improvements to an existing structure are likely viewed as a capital expenditure that will increase in value over time.

On the other hand some property owners believe that local resorts are losing business because lakeshore property owners are renting out their lake homes for weekly and longer periods.

A web search for “Lake Vermilion rentals” revealed there were 48 properties on all of Lake Vermilion that are offered for rent for three and seven day minimum periods.  About half of these properties are in Greenwood.  Rents were from $150 per night to $821 per night.  Weekly rentals ranged from $1,600 to $2,860.  Based on a 17 week rental period (May 15 to September 15) if they were a 100% occupied, some properties could generate $25,000 to $46,000 in annual revenue.










The opportunities for new off-lake housing in Greenwood are limited by large tracts of publically owned state forest land and abundant, extensive wetland areas.  There is also the issue of jobs and the opportunities that attract people to an area.  A once promising future for Minnesota taconite and iron ore suddenly vanished when ore prices dropped from $190 per ton to less than $50.  Sputtering U.S. and global economies reduced ore demand and stalled growth and development in Iron Range cities.  Looking long range, the boom and bust cycles of mineral mining and processing in northern Minnesota will always be there.  Over time mining and ore processing will recover and remain the base of the local economy but never to the levels enjoyed in the past.

Development of the new Lake Vermilion Park and the Soudan Underground Mine Park will occur slowly over time but could result in permanent jobs and create demand for local housing in all of the communities in the Greenwood area.  The City of Tower is planning to construct 145 new townhome units in the City limits over the next 5 to 10 years.  This city of 500 people is aggressively pursuing new housing and mixed use commercial development around the recently dredged harbor on Lake Vermilion.

But the reality is all of the area cities such as Virginia, Eveleth, Gilbert, Mountain Iron, Tower and Ely have lost population over the last 20 years. Table 3-3 shows U.S. Census population and household counts for all of St. Louis County for the period.


2010 200,226 103,058
2000 200,538 95,800
1990 198,213 95,403
1980 222,229 95,324
1970 220,693 80,859


In 2010 St. Louis County had 62.9% of its population living in an urban area or urban cluster and 37.1% (45,041 people) living in rural areas.

In 2015 Greenwood is located in a regional economy that overall is contracting yet the township because of its abundant shoreline, developed shoreland properties and a casino resort sees available properties being purchased, improved and occupied for longer periods.


New housing for Greenwood will likely settle around opportunities to convert seasonal cabins and resorts to year round and seasonal housing thereby expanding and upgrading the local housing stock.  There may also be demand for alternative housing for seniors that want to remain in the area when they are no longer able to maintain a lakeshore housing unit.

Greenwood property suitable for detached single family homes away from the lake must compete with existing single family housing in adjacent townships and small cities.  Constructing new single family homes in rural areas must compare to the cost of existing rural and urban homes available for sale in the market area.  For new housing in a rural setting there is the cost of acquiring raw land along an existing road.  If the proposed house is setback any distance to minimize road noise, there is the additional cost of constructing a longer driveway.  Then the cost of drilling a well and constructing an on-site sewage treatment system is added to the ledger before one dollar has been spent on erecting the housing unit.  The areas’ rocky soils can also increase construction and development costs.

Senior Housing away from the Lake will also face obstacles for locating such a facility in a rural area away from locally supported hospitals and transportation.  These state and county regulated facilities need a sustainable source of drinking water, require high grade on-site wastewater treatment, and there have to be local workers available and willing to commute to the site 24/7.

Greenwood might also find that there are opportunities for group homes in existing or redeveloped single family homes that are exempt from local zoning under state law with six or less occupants.

Greenwood does not have a problem with concentrations of homeless persons and there are not concentrations of vacant dilapidated buildings or buildings with visible structural problems like sagging roofs, heaved foundations, or bulging walls.  There is significant investment in the communities housing stock along with new construction of year round and seasonal residences.



Greenwood Township’s local government provides planning and zoning and rural fire protection services to its residents and property owners.  The five member town board is responsible for management of the community and is assisted by the Town Clerk and Town Treasurer. A part time Planning & Zoning Director administers the zoning code and supports the work of the Planning Commission and Board of Adjustments.





Greenwood administers its own zoning code and relies on St. Louis County for platting standards and wastewater system permitting.  The Greenwood Planning Commission has been in operation since 1983. The Greenwood Planning Commission is currently guided by the 1983 Town Plan document.  This document is outdated and conflicts with the current zoning code in that the plan prohibits industrial uses where as the zoning code permits heavy industrial activity.  The zoning map does not have a heavy industrial zone but the code includes language that allows several heavy industrial land uses.

The Greenwood Planning Commission oversees conditional use permits and the Greenwood Board of Adjustments administers the variance process.  Greenwood requires a conditional use permit for commercial uses in the shoreland zone.  The Greenwood zoning code is similar to the County ordinance but it needs updating to stay current with recent changes at the county level, especially as it relates to mitigating measures for development and redevelopment in the shoreland zone.   (See Appendix A for Analysis of Gaps between Greenwood Zoning and the Lake Vermilion Plan)

Both the Planning Commission and the Board of Adjustments are active working commissions administering and managing the zoning code.  The town needs an updated land use plan to guide the community over the next 20 years that will see changes in how Lake Vermilion will be used and developed.  Equally important to Lake Vermilion are the changes in the watersheds that feed the lake and changes in technology that will bring various levels of development to areas that are currently inaccessible or unavailable.

The 1983 Greenwood Township Goal and Policy Plan called for a mix of residential and commercial land uses, suitable for the shoreland zone.  These land uses were to be developed in harmony with the environment.  The document included policies to guide the community in evaluating potential development impacts on Lake Vermilion water quality and the natural environment of the town.





The St. Louis County Sheriff provides police protection for Greenwood residents, visitors and businesses. The county Sheriff’s department provides irregular patrols to various areas of Greenwood and responds to 911 calls for emergency assistance.

Recreational activities such as hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, ATVs, boating and more can all result in emergency response situations for law enforcement and life safety personnel.   The normal demand for emergency medical assistance from year round residents is magnified by the annual shift to summer season when the population of Greenwood triples.  The annual influx of seasonal property owners and vacation visitors from all over the country change the dynamic of Greenwood.  The lake and the area becomes a center of human activity that changes with the weather and coupled with a number of special events increases the population and the need for law enforcement services.

The Bois Forte tribe has trained law enforcement personnel available at the Fortune Bay Casino 24/7.  The tribe’s officers have responded to Greenwood emergency service calls and often maybe closer to a call than the Sheriff’s department at that time.  The City of Tower contracts with Breitung Township to provide patrols on an irregular basis.

The Minnesota State Patrol is also present in the area patrolling along U.S TH Highway 53, State Highway 169 and County Roads 77 and 115.

The St. Louis County Sheriff’s Rescue Squad will also respond to emergencies in Greenwood that may require search and rescue, on or off the lake.


Greenwood has a five million dollar investment in a local Volunteer Fire Department that has been serving the community since 1977.  The Greenwood Volunteer Fire Department (GVFD) is authorized for 24 members and currently has a full complement of members.


YEAR 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
MEMBERSHIP 24 27 24 21 16 13 13 16 24 24





The department maintains the following equipment at the Main Fire Hall on County Road 77 and at other on lake docks and marinas.


Engine #1 International 4X4 7400DT530 2002 9000
Tender #2 International 48004X4 1991 8000
Pumper Tender #3 International 4X4 7400SFA 2008 2000
Rescue Pumper #5 Ford F4504X4 1999 8000
Pumper #10 International Model 1824 1982 5900
Fire Boat #1 28’Metalcraft Firebrand 28 2006
Fire Boat#2 24’ Alumaweld 2009
Polaris Ranger Side by Side w/mattracks A10RF50AB 2002
Skidoo Snowmobile 2005
Polaris Snowmobile 2012
Airboat Panther 1986



The GVFD also owns two water craft specifically designed to respond to fire and medical emergencies by water.  These high speed high payload capacity boats carry personnel and equipment to combat fires and other emergencies from two locations on Lake Vermilion. The high speed fire boats are designed for search and rescue and for fighting fires within 1,000 feet of the shore.  Fire Boat One is equipped with side cast sonar and carries a crew of 12 and is stationed at Gruben’s Marina on Arrowhead Point.  Fire Boat Two is dispatched from Birch Point Recreation/Marina in Daisy Bay.  These two boats are available to assist other local jurisdictions, St. Louis County and the state for emergencies on Lake Vermilion.

The department also maintains two specially equipped snow machines, and an air boat for shallow water and thin ice conditions.


Table 5-3 shows the total number of calls for Emergency Medical Service, Fire calls and time spent on training and other fire department business for the period 2011 through 2013.  Table 5-3 shows the annual influx of seasonal property owners and visitors to the area coincides with monthly increases in calls for EMS and Fire emergencies during the warm weather months.


It also shows how EMS calls are the dominant activity in relation to fire emergencies in the community.


TABLE 5-3 TOTAL MONTHLY FIRE CALLS BY YEAR 2011-2014 Includes EMS calls, Fire Calls, Training and other Fire Department Business                         

MONTH 2011 2012 2013 2014
January 8 25 5 Not available by month
February 5 13 4 144 Total EMS calls
March 9 16 7 For year
April 10 18 12
May 16 29 18
June 16 23 13
July 27 25 23
August 23 22 11
September 16 22 9
October 21 8 8
November 12 6 6
December 21 0 5



MONTH 2011


















January 6 0 2 9 1 15 4 0 1
February 2 0 3 6 1 6 2 0 2
March 4 1 4 10 2 4 2 1 4
April 6 1 3 5 3 10 8 1 3
May 12 1 3 14 6 9 7 5 6
June 9 4 3 12 1 10 4 6 3
July 13 7 7 9 9 7 11 5 7
August 14 3 6 12 4 6 6 0 5
September 6 5 5 13 3 6 5 1 3
October 4 1 16 4 0 4 2 1 5
November 2 2 8 2 2 2 2 3 1
December 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 2
Totals 78 25 60 96 32 79 55 24 42


Greenwood has Mutual Aid agreements with the City of Tower, City of Cook, and Breitung Township.  Greenwood is also a member of the Laurentian Fire Fighting Water Supply Association and the areas Fire Brigade.

Ambulance services are available from the cities of Cook, Tower and Virginia. Greenwood contracts on a per capita basis for ambulance service with the City of Tower.  One member of the Town Board is a member of the Tower Ambulance Board.



Greenwood properties have access to telecommunications from a variety of sources.  Land based telephone and internet services are provided by Frontier Communications and Century Link.  There are also communication towers in the area to enable cell phone service on and off the lake.

Connectivity is an important community attribute in the 21st Century.  The technological strides in hand held devices are only beginning to influence the way communities are governed and managed.  The future will enable more electronic tools to assist with health care monitoring, building and personal security, weather alerts, environmental data collection and more.

Frontier Communications and the Northeast Service Cooperative (NSC) are working to bring high speed, broad band fiber optic connections to Greenwood and the surrounding area.  The NSC has been laying fiber optic cable throughout St. Louis County connecting public buildings and schools to the system for several years.  Frontier customers will see an improved system once their local feeders are connected to a fiber optic cable.  Faster up and down load speeds will be noticeable to the users.  The fiber optic cable will be extended along County 77 to the Greenwood Town Hall.

Communication towers are an intrusion into the wilderness and the developed community.  Until satellite and other technology connections can replace towers they will continue to be a necessary evil.  Voice and data service to some remote areas of Greenwood may never be economically or technologically feasible.

Local governments can regulate telecommunication facilities. Local governments should mandate co-location on existing towers and require studies to show proposed telecommunication facilities are necessary to service an area.  With many residents/visitors on islands, houseboats and at remote campgrounds, Greenwood needs to be aware of communication gaps that may be bridged through new technology.  Greenwood should also look to partner with other jurisdictions when planning or permitting telecommunication facilities.



Under the State of Minnesota Open Enrollment policies Greenwood school age children have the ability to select a school that best meets their needs.  Greenwood is part of the St. Louis County Independent School District 2142.   ISD 2142 operates an elementary school (K-6) in the City of Tower, and the districts high school (grades 7-12) is the Northeast Range School located in Babbitt.  The new North Woods School located in Field Township, five mile north of the City of Cook on the Olson Road covers both elementary and high school age children.  Virginia, Ely, and Mesabi East are also on the list of available area schools.  The Vermilion Country School is a charter school located in the City of Tower serves grades 7 to 12.  The Bois Forte tribe operates a Head Start program on their Lake Vermilion property.

Post Secondary education schools are located in Ely, Eveleth, Hibbing and Virginia.

2010 Census data shows less than 12% of Greenwood households have school age children. Those households have an Average Family Size of 2.48 persons, and their Median Family Income is $52,000.

A strong educational component that serves all age groups is a positive attribute that brings young families to a community.

Greenwood families have the option to pick their schools over the life of the education process.  Seasonal and lakeshore properties are taxed to support ISD 2142 schools but generally do not contribute students to the school system.  Seasonal property owners can attend Post Secondary education in nearby cities or adult education available from ISD 2142 or other area school districts.



Greenwood is all about recreation summer and winter.  People come to Greenwood’s resorts and campgrounds to get away from someplace else and see the lake with the “color of sunset glow”.  The part of Lake Vermilion in Greenwood has been a popular destination for sportsmen and women for over 100 years.  The lake supports 15 species of fish and the DNR estimates 587,000 hours of fishing annually.  With 16 public water access points (six in Greenwood) Lake Vermilion has attracted anglers from around the world.

Development of the new Lake Vermilion Park and Soudan Mine Park will add to the draw that was significantly enhanced with construction of the Fortune Bay Casino Resort in 1990.  Greenwood residents and visitors have a buffet of recreational choices everyday in Greenwood, summer and winter.

Greenwood residents often hear and see timber wolves, bald eagles, moose, bear, beaver, muskrat, otters, and deer to name a few.  Living on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the Superior National Forest, on a unique body of water is an experience that most people seem to treasure and hold.  Some Greenwood properties have been owned by one family for 100 years or more.

Statewide there is a trend in Minnesota that shows a per capita reduction in participation of outdoor and water recreation.  Fishing, boating, camping, hiking and hunting are declining in participation. The state’s population is becoming older, more urban and more diverse. The state’s population is also projected to grow by a million people in the next decade and the State Demographer predicts over 20% of St. Louis County’s population will be 75 years or older in 2040.

Reduced participation in outdoor and on water recreation might also be partially due to the cost of these activities in a weak economy or it may be more culturally anchored.

Minnesota is countering the trend with educational programs at state parks and offering “mini opportunities” to experience boating, hiking and camping.

The trend is also reflected in demand for off-lake recreation such as biking, hiking, other activities that require land based facilities.  Greenwood has discussed development of recreational facilities on the town hall land.  The Town Board has approved plans for a tennis/pickle ball court and Bocce ball court on this property for which funding and donations have been approved for construction in 2015.

There is also a regional proposal to construct a 39.2 mile paved hiking and biking trail from the Head of the Lake Public access to Tower.  The proposed trail would have ten segments winding around the west side of Lake Vermilion with connections to Cook, Fortune Bay Casino, and Tower. The segments proposed for Greenwood include Frazer Bay Public Access to Greenwood Town Hall (3.7 miles) Greenwood Town Hall to Fortune Bay (4 miles) and a spur along Old County 77 (3.6 miles) to the Greenwood Trail connecting Arrowhead Point to the Moccasin Point public landing.

The proposed regional trail has an estimated cost of $8,820,000 ($225,000 per mile) not including engineering and permanent easements.  State funding is available for constructing portions of major regional trail segments and connections.  The greatest obstacles to the proposed Cook to Tower trail might be in the cost of acquiring permanent public trail easements from private property owners in addition to crossing streams and wetlands.  The project is currently proposed to be constructed on “donated” easements and public road right-of-way.

Connecting Greenwood neighborhoods to the proposed regional trail should be considered.  Most local roads are too narrow to support a sidewalk and/or bike lane.  Conversely they carry mostly local traffic and therefore do not see “through” traffic and can better accommodate walkers and bikers.

Greenwood residents are into healthy life styles and there is interest in off lake summertime recreation, as well as on and off lake winter recreational activities.  Land owners also want their property tax bills as low as possible and many are opposed to paying for facilities they may never use.

The Town should carefully plan and develop any public recreational facilities on public property and be certain a proposed facility will be used and supported.

Another option is to partner with recreational organizations that could provide volunteer labor to develop and operate seasonal facilities in and around the community.


9.     CULTURE


Evidence of human habitation in northeastern Minnesota and Lake Vermilion indicates people were here in 5000 B.C.  The climate of the area was supposed to be “warmer and drier” back then.

In 1600 A.D. the Ojibway moved west and over the next 130 years established themselves in the western Great Lakes.  The Salteur Ojibway migrated to Lake Vermilion from the south shore of Lake Superior in the early 1700s and traded furs with the French.  The Salteur Ojibway encountered Dakota and Cree in the region but the French explorer Sieur Du Luth negotiated a treaty that brought peace to the areas fur trade.

Beginning in 1736 the Ojibway went to war and drove the Dakota and Cree from the region.  Later on the British did the same to the French.  The areas fur trade flourished again in the late 1700s only to diminish in 1854, when the Treaty of La Pointe opened the area to European settlement.

By this time the Bois Forte Ojibway had moved south from Canada and the La Pointe Treaty granted them land on Lake Vermilion.  In the late 1800s the federal government claimed the land and tried to enforce their policy that all Native Americans should live on a federal reservation. The Bois Forte tribe remains on Lake Vermilion today, in spite of several efforts by the U.S. Government to require them to move to the Nett Lake Reservation in the late 1800s.

All of the areas Native Americans tribes were exploited first by the fur traders, then the mining and logging interests.  Their knowledge of the land and the area were vital to all of the people that came after them and needed their trade, hospitality and shelter to survive.  The area is filled with their history and they were the dominant culture of the past.

By 1865 Lake Vermilion was further opened to the rest of the world when quartz rock containing a high grade gold ore was discovered. Shortly thereafter the Vermilion Trail was constructed from Duluth to the south shore of Lake Vermilion.  In 1866 the Bois Forte Treaty takes the land from the tribe and the gold rush is on.  The gold rush ends two years later and the discovery of iron ore starts an era that sees iron mining and logging dominate growth and development through the next 100 years.

Northeastern Minnesota was soon the new home for immigrants from Finland, Germany, Sweden, and Norway.  They established family farms on land cleared by logging and built towns for workers in the areas iron mines.


10.                       ENVIRONMENT


Greenwood’s natural environment is abundant, clean and protected.  Surrounded by state and federal forest preserves the Towns’ water resources are wetlands, lakes and streams.  Little East Creek flows through part of northern Greenwood and Wolf Creek flows between Wolf Lake and Smart Bay.  The major and minor water sheds that dissect Greenwood and drain to or from Lake Vermilion are shown on the Major and Minor Watershed Map.

Large expanses of wetlands ring the lake and are shown on the Wetlands Map.  Wetlands and saturated soils around Lake Vermilion have been a natural barrier to secondary tiers of development.  The quality of Lake Vermilion water is affected by the quality of the water from all of the major and minor watersheds that feed the Lake.

Water quality monitoring in the areas watersheds is not coordinated or systemized.  The MDNR monitors some water quality measures in relation to managing the areas fisheries.  The MPCA Citizen Monitoring program measures water clarity a leading indicator of development related water quality problems.  The North St. Louis County SWCD monitors watersheds around Lake Vermilion for parameters specific to their needs.  The Forest Service and USDA collect samples required to manage their resources and share the information with other agencies.

In 2015 the MPCA will implement their new Watershed Protection Program and initiate a comprehensive water quality monitoring program on Lake Vermilion and all the major rivers that drain or feed the Lake.  The program calls for a two year sampling program, followed by a detailed analysis of the data by experts from several state and federal agencies to determine what factors are impacting water quality.  This program is a major step forward for Greenwood and all of Lake Vermilion.  A Lake Vermilion sampling point will be established in Pike Bay along with other sample points near Tower and Wakemup Bay.  This program and its outcomes are important to every Greenwood property owner.  The community should formally tap into the program and make sure that meaningful data and logical conclusions are communicated to property owners.

The MDNR has an excellent program aimed at managing large lake fisheries on the ten largest lakes in Minnesota.  The Large Lake Program is an intensive fisheries management program that annually samples and accesses fish populations for all fish species and age groups.

The 2014 assessment found walleye to be below the historic average after several years where it was above average.  The low walleye count is attributed to poor reproduction in 2009 and 2013.  Special regulations for walleye are in effect for Lake Vermilion to ensure an adequate population of spawning walleyes.  In 2014 northern pike, yellow perch, black crappie and bluegill were slightly above to above average.

The MDNR 2014 report for Lake Vermilion also identifies several invasive species that were found in the Lake.  Rusty crayfish is found in East Vermilion and expanding to West Vermilion. Curly Leaf Pond Weed has been found in Everett’s Bay and Stuntz Bay.  Chinese mystery snails have survived in Spring Bay since 2011, and Purple Loosestrife has invaded some on-lake wetlands.  Also concerning is the presence of Heterosporis, a fish parasite found in several walleye and yellow perch from western Lake Vermilion. Spiny Water fleas were found in the lake during the summer of 2015.

Greenwood’s natural environment was changed by mining and logging practices that in their time were very detrimental to the areas soil and water resources.  Both activities resulted in polluted water runoff, soil erosion and a loss of habitat for birds and mammals.  Removing the white pine forest changed the ecology of the area and allowed new species to thrive in the forests and wetlands.

The fur trading era was also an ecological tipping point for fur bearing mammals because the trading companies used unsustainable practices to harvest fur pelts year round.  Eradication of timber wolves alone would cause unsustainable changes to an areas flora and fauna as documented by the Yellowstone Park wolf studies.

Expanding human development then changed the landscape and removed more forest habitat from the eco system.  The type and location of Greenwood’s early wastewater systems were not sufficient to sustain water quality and land development practices were copies of urban based development designed for high density occupation.  Some housing densities allowed in the early years were inappropriate for the lakeshore and the trend was to bring the city or suburban lot to the rural and lakeshore setting.

On the plus side the Superior National forest is one of the largest forest preserves in the eastern U.S. This national treasure covers most of Lake, Cook and northern St. Louis County.  Add in the BWCAW and the other state and national parks in northern Minnesota for a region dominated by large tracts of undeveloped forests, pristine rivers, lakes and streams for public preservation and recreation.

Fallout of airborne pollutants from regional power plants and mining operations are viewed as threats to the areas soil and water resources.


With most of its development located in close proximity to the lakeshore there is potential in Greenwood for nutrient contamination of the lake from stormwater and snowmelt runoff, and nutrients from subsurface individual wastewater treatment systems and leaking underground holding tanks.

Wastewater treatment systems and holding tanks are regulated by St. Louis County.  The Department of Environmental Service is responsible for permitting new systems including holding tanks and enforcement of standards that apply to system design, construction and maintenance.

The exact number of on-site wastewater treatment systems (including holding tanks and privies) in Greenwood is unknown, but based on available information there could be as many as 2,000 in 2015.  The estimate is based on Table 4-2 counts of seasonal (2,046) versus homestead (447) property, and the number of structures (1,947) with a Greenwood fire number.

St. Louis County recently amended their ordinance that requires a “point of sale” septic system inspection for all properties that are changing hands and contains an individual treatment system or holding tank.  The county now requires an “escrow account” adequate to cover the costs for necessary upgrades or reconstruction of any on-site wastewater system being transferred to a new owner.  The information provided by the county on the number of point of sale compliance inspections is shown in Chart B (Appendix B).  Chart B shows the number of compliance inspections in Greenwood by Township and Range numbers, for the period 2005 to 2015.  The annual number of point of sale compliance inspections is a reflection the local real estate market and the number of properties that are offered for sale and receive a qualifying offer for purchase.

For the 10 year period covered by the county data there would be an average of 31 compliance inspections per year for all of Greenwood.  One half of the systems inspected or 15 per year would be compliant, and one half would be either non-compliant or non-conforming or about 18 systems per year.  Systems determined to be non-compliant must be upgraded under the county ordinance.

Failed systems presenting an immediate threat to public health are less than one per year or a total of 6 in 10 years.  Holding tanks (59) performance systems (108) and standard septic systems (232) are the most permitted types of on-site wastewater systems in Greenwood.

The county data also shows an average of 22 permits per year for new construction for individual on-site systems including holding tanks during the 10 year period for the areas covered in the table.

The Greenwood Zoning Code also requires a sanitary check off for all local permits in all shoreland zone districts, and on parcels having less than 2.5 acres in lot area outside of the shoreland zone.  The check off is intended to identify any impacts a permit would have on the existing system and the septic system replacement area of the property.

Protecting the water quality of Lake Vermilion and its tributaries requires a basin wide perspective.  Currently, the only group active in this area is the Lake Vermilion Sportsmen’s Club.  The club brings together sportsmen and women from all communities on the lake to provide funds and labor to protect the lake from invasive species, pollution and to promote outdoor recreation.  The club works with federal and state agencies and local governments to coordinate and focus their efforts.

Under the Lake Vermilion Plan there should be an organization that brings together all local governments, state and federal agencies to monitor the lake and share information about development and water quality.  As the local government with the highest concentrations of development on the lake, Greenwood would have much to offer and much to gain from such an alliance.


SLC Environmental Services Department staff is concerned about spillage from overfilled or crumbling holding tanks affecting the lake. ESD staff advocates a local government system to monitor tank levels and respond to high level alarms that would be sent electronically or via telemetry to a central computerized station.  The town would send out a service provider to pump the tank and bill the property owner for the service. Most modern tanks are wired for high level alarms and older tanks would have to be retrofitted or replaced.

What if there was a lakeshore neighborhood in Greenwood where a concentration of systems needed to be replaced or upgraded but the costs for conventional alternatives were prohibitive to the owners?  What options would be available to the town to deal with the situation?

Collecting the wastewater and pumping it in a low pressure system through a small diameter pipe would be one option that could work in the shoreland zone.  Given proper soils the pipe line could be directionally bored with less environmental disturbance.  The homeowner might need a grinder pump and a pressurized tank to access the system.

The end destination of the wastewater would be a more difficult issue to solve.  A larger holding tank or connection to an existing wastewater treatment plant, are two options that would normally be considered.    A sewer pipeline would have to be constructed to connect the local collection system to a nearby treatment facility.  Likely rock excavation along the sewer line could be a costly part of the construction cost.  The local plant may also need capacity improvements to accept the wastewater and those costs would likely be assigned to the user of the treatment system.

Another option would be to construct a local treatment plant perhaps similar to the system at Fortune Bay.  Operation and maintenance of a local wastewater treatment facility is a major undertaking for any Minnesota township government.

U.S. EPA has been evaluating the use of “Constructed Wetlands” to treat domestic sewage for at least a decade.  EPA research has concluded that 2/3s of the U.S. has soil conditions that are inappropriate for the conventional septic tank/leaching field system.

The constructed wetland system can have either an open surface water or subsurface flow system.  In any case there is also a primary settling chamber and a re-circulating sand filter supporting the constructed wetland.  The developer of the system claims it can be used for one home or an entire community.   Treatment systems generally need some type of continuous flow to maintain a biological treatment process.  Alternative systems would also have to function in cold weather for year round connections.

SLC recently removed barriers to the use of holding tanks to provide affordable options for seasonal and small lot properties.


Stormwater runoff and snow melt runoff are another source of nutrient pollution affecting Lake Vermilion water quality.  In 2003, as part of the SLC Lake Vermilion Plan initiative, the University of Minnesota, Department of Forest Services, examined Lake Vermilion phosphorus loading from developed properties.  The study was lake wide and examined the development characteristics of lakeshore properties and how they contribute to soil erosion and transmission of soil and phosphorus to the lake. The study examined over 1,200 properties and calculated the impact of 16 classes of property found in the Lake Vermilion watershed on the contribution of runoff contamination.

The study concluded that properties where the native vegetation has been replaced with suburban style grassed lawns contribute the highest soil and phosphorus loadings to the lake.  The good news is almost 50% of the properties cataloged by the study have retained a significant portion of the native vegetation between the structure and the shore and have chosen a low maintenance, low impact type of development for their lakeshore lot.

Stormwater collection and treatment is one method of protecting the lake from soil erosion and phosphorus loading.  Preserving and restoring native shoreland vegetation is another method that can contribute positively to Lake Vermilion water quality.  The Lake Vermilion Plan seeks to utilize both methods to preserve and protect water quality and preserve the character of the lake.

Greenwood needs to modernize its zoning requirements to include construction and post construction stormwater management and requirements to minimize opportunities for soil erosion.   Greenwood currently works with the North St. Louis County Soil and Water Conservation District on erosion control standards and practices.  The Lake Vermilion Plan contains recommendations for using stormwater management and soil erosion controls to protect the lakes water quality.


11.                       MINING & FOREST MANAGEMENT


Away from Lake Vermilion, Greenwood’s landscape is dominated by forested bogs, open water wetlands and rocky upland.  The presence of mineable minerals is doubtful and the only evidence of mining in Greenwood is excavations for sand and gravel.  None of the sites used for gravel mining encompass more than 20 acres of excavation disturbance and none have water access.  Several sites appear to have existed for many years with no indication of restoration indicating they may still be active operations.  These sites are regulated under Greenwoods zoning code and require permitting as borrow pits if established after 1983.

While large scale open pit or underground mining is not presently an issue in Greenwood it has dominated the regional economy for over 100 years.  The Soudan Underground Mine is located only a short distance from Greenwood and the lake was a special place for the miners and their families during the boom years of the mine. Iron ore and taconite mines and processing facilities in the Virginia and Hibbing areas also brought people to Greenwood for recreation and seasonal housing.

In recent years there has been more non-ferrous mineral exploration in N.E. Minnesota.  Copper, nickel, and precious metals are some of the minerals that could be found and mined in the area.  A permit to mine copper, nickel, and precious metals in the Hoyt Lakes area and former LTV property is nearing the EIS Review stage.

Currently, there is a proposal for the U.S Forest Service and the State of Minnesota to swap 83,000 acres of school trust land the state holds in the BWCAW for 1/3 federal forest land outside of the BWCAW and 2/3rds for purchase.  This action would then make the federal land outside the BWCAW eligible for mineral exploration, mining and logging.  School trust lands must be “managed” and return funds from mining and logging to the trust for annual distribution to the states school systems.  The trust land in the BWCAW could not be “managed” because of its wilderness status under federal law.

The proposed swap/purchase action has stirred controversy over the potential impacts of exploration, possibly mining and logging in a sensitive area.

All of the non ferrous mining projects have raised issues with runoff contamination from waste rock containing compounds that become sulfide pollutants when exposed to air and water.  Other proposals involve air and water contamination from processing copper and non-ferrous ores.

The Pike River is subject to contaminated seepage from U.S Steel’s unlined tailing basin and the Sandy River during low flow periods.  The sulfide levels in the Pike River downstream of the confluence with the Sandy River could increase under low flow conditions but still remain within limits for state drinking water standards.

The Superior National Forest and Kabetogamma Forests are also subject to multiple use and timber harvesting practices.  The current low demand for forest products has reduced the pressure to open these areas to logging and the federal government has been using endangered species provisions to withhold some federal land from logging.

12.                       ZONING


Greenwood administers its own zoning code and has continued this practice since 1983.  The Greenwood zoning code contains 16 zone districts under the following categories:

Residential 1 RES 1 35.0 acres 600’
Residential 4 RES 4 4.5 acres 300’
Residential 5 RES 5 2.5 acres 200’
Residential 8 RES 8 1.0 acres 200’
Residential 9 RES 9 1.0 acres 150’
Residential 11 RES 11 .5 acres 100’
Forest/Agriculture Management FAM 1 35.0acres 600’
Forest/Agriculture Management FAM 2 17.0 acres 600’
Mixed Use Non-Shoreland MUNS 4 4.5 acres 300’
Shoreland Mixed Use 4a SMU 4a 4.5 acres 400’
Shoreland Mixed Use 8 SMU 8 1.0 acres 200’
Shoreland Mixed Use 9 SMU 9 1.0 acres 150’
Sensitive Lands 1 SENS 1 35.0 acres 600’
Sensitive Lands 2 SENS 2 17.0 acres 600’
Sensitive Lands 3 SENS 3 9.0 acres 300’
Sensitive Lands 4 SENS 4 4.5 acres 300’


Greenwood’s zoning code also establishes standards for setbacks from the shores of rivers, lakes and streams based on state law.  Table 12-1 shows the setbacks for structures in the shoreland zone.





Natural Environment 150’
Recreational Development 100’
General Development (Lake Vermilion) 75’
Trout Steam 150’
Remote River 200’
Forest River 150’
All Other Rivers 100’


Greenwood requires a conditional use permit for all commercial uses in the shoreland zone and has a Board of Adjustments for variances from zoning standards.

Greenwood has the potential for significant change over the next 20 years.  Boomers will continue to age and there will be a shift to more assisted living and senior care facilities.  Property will change hands and there will be opportunities for redevelopment of commercial, seasonal and year round residential properties.  The number of year round residents will continue to rise and fall as younger retirees move in and older ones move on.  Some vacant private and public properties will change hands and create opportunities for new development.  There will continue to be technological changes in communications, wastewater treatment and personal transportation.

The Vermilion Plan provides the overall development framework for the entire lake, but the new Greenwood Plan needs to be detailed enough to guide the community inside and outside of the shoreland zone through the next two decades of change.




13.                       SOILS


The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has tested and mapped soils for all of Greenwood’s shoreland zone.           The only part of Greenwood that has not been mapped is the northern and northeastern portion of the town.  Most of this area is within the bounds of the BWCAW or publically owned.  The soils data for this area will likely be published in the next three to five years and provide the Park and Forest Service agencies useful data for managing the wilderness area.

NCRS determines the characteristics of the soil to a depth of 6 feet.  Soil information is important to development and the conditions that will likely be encountered when developing mainland or island properties.  The data is also useful for managing timber, agriculture, and wildlife.

The Greenwood soils map looks like a jig-saw puzzle and the largest soil types are the hydric or wetland soils.  There are many soils with limitations like shallow depth to bedrock, slow water movement, slope, seepage, large stones or not rated because it is a rock outcrop with no soil covering.

There are also deposits of soil in Greenwood that will support development and allow operation of a conventional septic system.

Regulating future development would benefit from a soils data base combined with a parcel map.  This information would be useful in evaluating development potential or proposals.



Maps 1-6 (Provided to Steering Committee at April 15, 2015 Meeting)

  1. Map of Future Land Use Concept Under the Lake Vermilion Plan (cover 1,000 feet from shore of Lake Vermilion).
  2. Wetlands Map (with roadway system)
  3. Watershed Map (no roadway system)
  4. Louis County Zoning & Greenwood Zoning 2015
  5. Lake Vermilion Housing & Commercial Density by Census Blocks
  6. Lake Vermilion Proposed Zoning and Existing Density


















The information contained in this report was obtained through web searches, review of public agency data, purchase of public agency data, interviews of knowledgeable persons, telephone and email inquires of knowledgeable persons, reviews of reports, books and periodicals.



Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Minnesota State Demographers Office

Minnesota DNR

Natural Resource Conservation Service

St. Louis County Highway Department

St. Louis County Environmental Services Department

St. Louis County Auditor

Minnesota DOT

Greenwood Township

St. Louis County Planning & Zoning Dept

Arrowhead Regional Development Commission



Other Sources


Fortune Bay Casino & Resort

The Sportsmen’s Club of Lake Vermilion, Inc.


Books and Periodicals


Lake Vermilion: Picturing a Bygone Era, Marshall Helmberger, Timberjay Inc, 2003

Lake Vermilion: Memories of the Early Days, Marshall Helmberger Timberjay Inc, 2005