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Tettegouche Visitor Center nearly complete after delay

The new 11,000 square foot visitor center at Tettegouche State Park was to have opened last fall. Delays have been attributed to wet spring weather and snags in getting necessary supplies. Look for doors to open in late March. Photo by Ken Vogel.

Ken Vogel

Since its groundbreaking in July of 2012, staff and visitors alike have eagerly awaited the completion of the new Tettegouche visitors’ center and rest area, but the $7 million building, expected to open late last year, is yet unfinished.

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The project was a collaborative venture of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Department of Transportation, with some additional funding from the Federal Highway Administration. The new, 11,000 square foot, state- of- the- art facility will replace one that was built in 1986, when the park hosted considerably fewer visitors.

“The old site was built to serve about 10,000 to 15,000 visitors per year and was out of date. We are now at about 375,000 visitors per year”, park manager Phil Leversedge said, adding that he actually started working on the plan for the new visitors’ center in the late 1990s. He said that the new facility will meet standards required by the Americans with Disabilities Act and be more user friendly, with larger interpretive displays and common areas with WiFi.

“We will have a large Great Room, a multipurpose room, a lakeside patio and an outdoor amphitheater. We want people to be able to come in and take time to plan their day while enhancing their overall interpretive learning capabilities,” he said.

As for the delays, Leversedge said that crews faced unexpected challenges.

“This was a huge undertaking beginning with the road work that had to be done to Hwy. 61 to create a safe entrance and exit of the facility, “ he said, “there were also various minor construction delays including some supply issues.”

According to Jim French, vice president of product management for Black and Dew, the project’s general contractor, the biggest challenge the company faced was last year’s uncooperative weather.

“It was very cold and very wet last spring causing some delays,” he said, adding that while this was not a large- scale undertaking for Black & Dew, but it was an important project for the company.

“We took a lot of pride in this project knowing it will have a positive impact on the economy and the area for many years,” he said.

Ted Sexton, Mn DOT’s principal engineer for the safety rest area portion of the project, said that although the construction went a little slower than expected he has been pleased with the result.

“We demanded that it be done right, not just fast. This will be a very functional facility and will be a great asset to the north shore,” he said.

The energy efficient facility was constructed with a structurally insulated panel system, a green technology using eight- inch foam insulation sandwiched between two structural facings for the walls, with 12- inch foam panels for the ceilings. The facility will also boast LED lighting and a 24 kilowatt, said Leversedge, and solar array will provide a good portion of the sites electrical needs.

According to Leversedge the facility should be ready to be open its doors to the public by late March; a grand opening will be scheduled for some time later this summer.