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Virajita Singh from the University of Minnesota led the discussions at the National Loon Center Town Meeting held at Manhattan Beach Thursday, September 7. - photo by Bill Monroe

Public input given for Loon Center

Web posted September 12, 2017
By Bill Monroe, Northland Press Correspondent

Faculty members from the University of Minnesota were in Crosslake to ask residents for their thoughts about the creation of a National Loon Center in Crosslake and residents packed a meeting room at Manhattan Beach Thursday, September 7 to let them know what they thought about the idea.

The newly formed National Loon Center Foundation submitted an application to the University of Minnesota Sustainable Development Partnerships to have a marketing and feasibility study conducted and the  application was accepted. The first phase of the project is a series of three town meetings to seek local opinions on the design of the Loon Center.

Foundation President Jim Anderson said his group envisions building a state of the art facility including an indoor loon habitat attraction and a loon research center. Surrounding the facility would be a shoreline restoration project demonstrating the positive actions for restoring loon habitat and applying clean water initiatives. He introduced Virajita Singh, Senior Research Fellow and Adjunct Assistant Professor from the University who led the two-hour meeting. Singh and others from the University showed the over 70 people in attendance examples of other national environmental centers around the nation. During the workshop portion of the meeting, small groups of citizens were asked to answer three questions:

Why is a National loon Center important to you?

What are the opportunities presented and barriers posed to building it?

What dreams and aspirations do you have long-term should the Loon Center become a reality?

Here are some of the answers the citizens came up with:

Why is a Center important?
• To protect the natural habitat of the lakes region.
• To protect the loon species.

Opportunities
• It would unite Crosslake.
• It would be a boost to tourism.
• It would give people the opportunity to see loons up close.
• It would make Crosslake a destination city.
• It would make Crosslake a center for knowledge.
• The Center would improve the local economy.
• The Center already has a great deal of local support.
• It would serve as an educational center for young and old

Barriers
• The city’s infrastructure may be a possible barrier.
• Sustaining interest and enthusiasm could be a challenge after the Center is built.
• Funding, especially sustained funding after it is built could be difficult.
• There will always be naysayers who are against change of any kind.
• Traffic could be a problem, especially if it is located in the U.S. Army Campgrounds Area.

Dreams and aspirations
• An underwater viewing tunnel would enable visitors to see loons from a new perspective.
• The University of Minnesota could establish a Freshwater Institute here.
• A national Loon Calling Contest could be established.
• A citywide Loon Trolley could be established.

Foundation President Anderson acknowledged the project’s partners, collaborators and funders including the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corporation, City of Crosslake, Crosslake Area Historical Society, Crosslake Chamber of Commerce, Crosslake Community School, Crosslakers, Initiative Foundation, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, National Joint Powers Alliance, National Park Service, State Senator Carrie Ruud, Train Museum, the University of Minnesota, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Congressman Rick Nolan, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department and the Crow Wing County Lakes and Rivers Alliance.

Matt Kilian, President of the Brainerd Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, addressed the group and pledged the support of the Crosslake Chamber of Commerce to relocate its office to the Center building and to help staff the operation once it’s built.

The next public meeting will be October 17. At that time, several possible design scenarios will be presented for comment. The final public meeting will be held December 5 when the final design plan will be reviewed and refined. Then a final plan will be written. After that, another set of faculty and grad students will conduct an economic feasibility study.

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