A historic camp in Silver Bay's Tettegouche State Park is in dire need of repairs.
Tettegouche Camp was established as a private club by the Alger-Smith Lumber Company in 1910. The historic lodge in the center of the camp was built first, followed shortly by the four cabins in the early 1920s. Over the years, more buildings were added to the location: a barn, a filers' shed, a covered boat launch onto Mic Mac Lake, a root cellar, and a boat storage building.
One of the club members, Clement Quinn, bought out the others in 1921 and acted as the protector for the area until the 1970s, when Tettegouche was established as a state park. The camp was preserved and placed on the National Register of Historic places in the 1990s and restored for use as a hike-in overnight camp location in 1994.
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But one former Department of Natural Resources Operations Services employee is concerned that not enough is being done to preserve the camp and ensure it remains viable and functional in the future.
Danielle Foertsch worked as a facilities adviser for the DNR for about five months in 2018. Part of her responsibilities was to visit Tettegouche Camp and give it an evaluation. When she visited the camp, she noted several issues of concern.
"There are just a number of things that need general ongoing maintenance, like exterior siding refinishing, reroofing of buildings as the shingles are disintegrating leading to leaks," Foertsch said. "Some of the chimneys are slowly disintegrating. There were even a couple of structural foundation issues on a couple of the cabins. The boat storage was on the verge of collapse — and it did collapse. Two structures — the barn and the filers' structure — had previously collapsed before I started at the DNR.
"It's the stuff that the park’s staff has been requesting to be done for years."
Foertsch noted that conditions of the camp are "in no way a reflection of the park's staff, as they've been doing everything they could."
While Foertsch cited the cabins as part of her concerns, she stated none of them seemed in "imminent danger," rather that the leaks and structural issues could lead to bigger concerns if they were ignored.
According to Chris Niskanen, DNR chief communications officer of the operations services division, the buildings have been assessed by structural engineering professionals and they "do not consider there to be any immediate safety hazards in the buildings today. Also, repairs to five of Tettegouche’s historic buildings have been in the planning phase for some time."
The lodge, the boat shelter and three of the four cabins are part of a project set to begin construction in fall 2020, pending funding availability and approval from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).
"The DNR has hired an architectural firm that specializes in the rehabilitation of historic buildings to design the repairs for this project. The design work is underway now," Niskanen wrote.
However, no plans are in place to address one of Foertsch's concerns: the root cellar building, despite it being closed to the public.
"There is a wood fence installed around the root cellar to attempt to keep users safely away. It is obvious that people often ignore that fence based on a well-worn path and footprints in the snow that lead to the cellar," Foertsch wrote in correspondence with a DNR employee. "Moreover, a fence does not address the likely collapse of the root cellar, nor does it demonstrate any attempt to preserve this contributing structure."
Niskanen wrote that SHPO "did not have comments on the root cellar during a visit this summer" and it is not included in the plans for future repairs.
Foertsch said she raised concerns with the condition of the Tettegouche Camp buildings, specifically the boat storage and root cellar, with her supervisor and was terminated two days later. The boat storage also collapsed shortly after.
"While the loss of my job was disappointing to say the least, the loss of a structure (the boat storage) that was contributing to the Tettegouche Camp Historic District is extremely disappointing," Foertsch wrote in a letter to the DNR. "Demolition through benign neglect is not considered non-action, but rather, is an adverse action.
"I am concerned that delay of preservation work at Tettegouche Camp will result in further loss of historic resources and negative impacts to the character of one of the most loved, special places in the Minnesota State Park system."