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Gunflint Trail reopens Tuesday with tree-planting

The Gunflint Trail will fully reopen at 8 a.m. Tuesday after more than two weeks of closures because of the Ham Lake fire.

The event is being marked with a ribbon-cutting and tree-planting ceremony at the Cross River bridge that marked the roadblock that has kept residents and visitors away from the last seven miles of the 57-mile road.

The event is open to the public.

In addition to the road reopening, all access points to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness will reopen Tuesday, except for Magnetic and Larch lakes.

The end of the trail has been evacuated since May 6, when the Ham Lake fire made one of several runs, burning trees and buildings across a wide swath near Seagull and Saganaga lakes.

The fire was fully contained late Saturday and is near full containment in Ontario. Monday's heavy rains should have doused remaining hot spots inside the perimeter.

All roads near the fire are now open in Ontario as well.

The fire started May 5, apparently from an unattended campfire, and burned across almost 76,000 acres, about half in Minnesota. The Minnesota portion of the wildfire is the state's largest and most costly since 1918.

About 140 structures in Minnesota and 15 in Canada were lost to the fire, but heroic efforts of fire crews, residents and others are credited with saving dozens more structures.

Most of the 1,000 firefighters, dozens of fire engines and other equipment have been released from the Minnesota side of the fire.

Residents, especially resort owners and outfitters who make their living from tourism, are hoping visitors won't shy away from the area because of extensive news reports on the fire. They note only a small portion of the Gunflint Trail and BWCAW areas have burned.

"It's time to welcome back our friends and neighbors who have spent the most time away from home [because of the fire] and offer help and encouragement as they jump back into business," said Ted Young, owner of Poplar Creek Guesthouse, in a statement. "And of course, we'll plant some trees."