Fort Frances residents soon will be seeing a change in scenery when looking across the upper Rainy River following a recent waterfront development agreement between the City of International Falls and Voyageurs National Park.
“The entire project is entitled the ‘Voyageur Heritage Centre, Voyageurs National Park Headquarters, and Irvin Anderson Amphitheater,’” International Falls Mayor Shawn Mason said about the project that’s “key to the city’s revitalization.”
To be located across from the Sorting Gap Marina, the first phase of the roughly 18-month project will see the building of the new Voyageurs National Park headquarters, noted Mayor Mason.
“The VNP has a building here that is substandard and their lease has expired, so we wanted to be able to secure those jobs—which are about 64 full-time equivalent positions related to VNP,” she explained, noting that with the park stretching southwards, the new headquarters possibly could have be built elsewhere at other gateway communities.
“So we wanted to be able to ascertain those positions, make sure they stay within our community,” she stressed.
As well, the city wanted to evolve the relationship that it, as a gateway community, has with the VNP, Mayor Mason continued.
Once the building of the new VNP headquarters is complete, walking and biking trails, an outdoor amphitheater, as well as a heritage centre connected to the headquarters will be built.
The city already has in place a fishing pier and boat launch that will be a part of the design.
“So VNP headquarters will have much more of a, I would say, friendly projection, and it would tie in nicely with other parts of the waterfront,” Mayor Mason said.
“It’s going to be hospitality-oriented, it’s going to be open to the public, it’s going to be key to revitalization,” she added, likening the project to a miniature version of Duluth’s Canal Park.
“For a decade, people have really wanted to be able to secure that stretch of waterfront,” Mayor Mason said, outlining how the land for the new project was secured.
“Boise [Cascade] had just decided a few years ago that they would release that property—the total footage of the entire swathe of property is 5,250 feet of shoreline, about 71 acres,” she noted.
“Boise sold to a company that was gracious enough to allow us to purchase an additional 10 acres of property that is right next to our water plant system,” she added. “So we’re very grateful to Boise, their doing this to sell that property.
“We invite our Canadian friends over on Saturday, Sept. 26 for the ground-breaking,” Mayor Mason added, noting there will be complimentary lunch served, as well as several dignitaries from the U.S. government on hand for the occasion.
The ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. at the Pat Roche Memorial Access off Highway 11 East.