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Mount Josephine Wayside Rest improvements celebrated

Rhonda Silence


Enjoying the view—and enjoying the results of their collaboration—representatives of the groups that worked to develop and fund the new Mount Josephine Wayside Rest visited on the viewing deck after the ribbon cutting on Friday, May 18. (L-R) Rob Wells of MN/DOT, Grand Portage Tribal Chair Norman Deschampe, Rick Novitsky of Grand Portage State Park and County Commissioner Bruce Martinson, a member of the North Shore Scenic Drive Council. 
Staff photo/Rhonda Silence Enjoying the view—and enjoying the results of their collaboration—representatives of the groups that worked to develop and fund the new Mount Josephine Wayside Rest visited on the viewing deck after the ribbon cutting on Friday, May 18. (L-R) Rob Wells of MN/DOT, Grand Portage Tribal Chair Norman Deschampe, Rick Novitsky of Grand Portage State Park and County Commissioner Bruce Martinson, a member of the North Shore Scenic Drive Council. Staff photo/Rhonda Silence The vantage point of the Mount Josephine Wayside Rest on Highway 61 in Grand Portage has always offered a breathtaking view of Lake Superior and the Susie Islands. However, accessibility was an issue and safety was a concern. That has changed, the result of a collaborative effort of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MN/DOT), Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, who worked together to create a rest stop that safely accommodates all visitors and magnificently frames the amazing vista. On Friday, May 18, the partners and community members gathered to celebrate the enhancements at the rest stop.


Offering an honor song to welcome attendees at the Mount Josephine Wayside Rest dedication on Friday, May 18 were the Stonebridge Singers— Trevor Deschampe, Brent Sorenson, John Vogel and Brandon Dahl. (Not pictured: David and Marcus Logan). 
Staff photos/Rhonda Silence Offering an honor song to welcome attendees at the Mount Josephine Wayside Rest dedication on Friday, May 18 were the Stonebridge Singers— Trevor Deschampe, Brent Sorenson, John Vogel and Brandon Dahl. (Not pictured: David and Marcus Logan). Staff photos/Rhonda Silence

 

Some improvements are dramatically noticeable. Where once sightseers had to scramble along a treacherous rocky ledge, there is a sturdy wooden platform, jutting high above the treetops on the hillside below. There are lovely picnic tables affixed to a patio-like observation area. And there is a modern vault restroom.

Other improvements may not be immediately noticeable but are priceless to visitors who in the past were unable to enjoy such scenic areas. There is accessible parking and there are sidewalk cutouts for wheelchair accessibility and tactile surfaces for visually impaired visitors. The picnic tables are designed with space for wheelchair seating. The overlook has low rock walls and thin wire rails on the platform that protect people while providing a universal view.


The Mount Josephine Wayside Rest offers an awe-inspiring view, sure to give motorists a few moments of peace along their journey. The Mount Josephine Wayside Rest offers an awe-inspiring view, sure to give motorists a few moments of peace along their journey. Mary Somnis of the North Shore Scenic Byways Council welcomed the community members and visitors in attendance and quickly noted, “The North Shore Scenic Council had nothing to do with any of this—but we are delighted to be here!”

She introduced the Grand Portage Stonebridge Singers present— Trevor Deschampe, Brent Sorenson, John Vogel and Brandon Dahl—who welcomed visitors in their own way, with an honor song.

Somnis introduced the other speakers, who were participants in the project. First up was Rob Wells, who manages the rest area system for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, who said he has a soft spot in his heart for the Mount Josephine Wayside Rest, as his first job at MN/DOT was to try to find funding for the enhancements. That was in 2001, he said. “It is wonderful to see it come to fruition,” he said.

He thanked the many people who helped in the concept and design of the beautiful new rest stop, which he added, is the highest stopping point on Highway 61. Wells said, “I hope you think we’ve done justice to this beautiful spot. I hope it gets enjoyed by residents and visitors for years to come.”

Rick Novitsky of the Grand Portage State Park spoke for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Novitsky oversees the beautiful High Falls area and he and his staff also maintain the Mount Josephine rest stop. “I think we all agree we’ve got one of the best jobs in the world. It’s a pleasure to take care of this spot, to visit with travelers. You can see why,” he said, pointing the great expanse of blue sky and the endless sea below.

Grand Portage Tribal Chair Norman Deschampe then spoke, joking that he didn’t like speaking last, as everyone else usually says what he was going to say.

Deschampe said he remembered sitting in school and hearing highway construction under way, the blasting for the rock cut through Mount Josephine. He said the enhancements have been a long time coming. “We’ve turned what was an unsafe, not very appealing rest stop to something that we can all be proud of,” he said.

Deschampe added that the Grand Portage Band had taken steps to preserve the Lake Superior shore and the islands that could be seen from the overlook. “The Band has set that aside so no one will ever stop here and not see this wonderful view,” he said.

The Stonebridge Singers then offered a traveling song, sending everyone safely on their way—but not before enjoying some refreshments, courtesy of the Grand Portage Band. And not before pausing for a few more minutes to enjoy the view.


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