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Tettegouche visitor center opens its doors

A $7 million Tettegouche State Park visitor center and rest area opened earlier this month. Landscaping projects are still being completed. Photos by Jim Erickson

The long-awaited visitor center and rest area at Tettegouche State Park opened its doors last Friday. The $7 million project features an 11,000 square foot fully-accessible building, picnic areas, amphitheater, multi-purpose spaces, a gift shop and 24-hour restroom facilities. Interpretive panels in a 750 square foot exhibit space offer visitors an overview of the region’s historical and cultural significance.

The project, which has been plagued by construction delays, originally broke ground in July 2012. According to Jim French, vice-president of project management for Black and Dew, the general contractor hired to construct the facility, the weather has been the primary contributor to the belated opening.

“It was very cold and very wet last spring, causing some of the delays,” he told the Lake County News-Chronicle in January.” Now, although it has taken almost two years to complete — over a year longer than expected — Tettegouche State Park acting manager Jason Peterson is upbeat and pleased to be seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

“We’re just so happy at this moment to have it open and available for people to enjoy,” he said on Wednesday, and although he didn’t have an exact count of how many people had visited the new center, he said it’s been busy.

“Despite the challenging weather and the landscaping going on, the parking lot has been nearly full every day since we opened.”

The project is a collaborative venture of the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources with additional funding from the federal government. The facility replaces one built in 1986 when visitors to the park numbered about 15,000 per year. According to current figures, counts now top 375,000 annually.