News

Monday Madness at Grand Marais campground

Brian Larsen

Twenty-seven people were lined up at the Grand Marais Recreation Park office door by 7 a.m. on Monday, January 4, all seeking to secure an RV or camping site for the weekend of the Grand Marais Lions Club Fisherman’s Picnic. It was a good thing they were early and in person, because Samantha “Sam” Wallner, the park’s office manager, said by 10:30 a.m., with the two phones ringing off their respective hooks, the park was booked solid for the Picnic.

The early birds usually come from about two hours away, Grand Marais Parks Manager Dave Tersteeg said, adding he had hot coffee on and ready to serve them.

“Most of them come from Thunder Bay or Duluth. But a few were from the Twin Cities,” he said. “It wasn’t too cold this year, so the wait wasn’t too bad.”

When asked when the first hopeful campers would arrive at the office, Tersteeg said he has heard some eager beavers show up as early as 4:30 a.m.

By the end of the first day that reservations could be made for 2016, the staff had taken 378 bookings. That number was well over 600 by the end of January 5, but at 4:45 p.m., the start of the board’s meeting, the phones were still ringing incessantly. Wallner said a few people complained that it was hard to get through and some wondered if the park’s phone system was working because every time they called they received a busy signal. “They don’t realize that the phones are busy all day because we receive non-stop phone calls,” Wallner said.

With Walt Mianowski’s second term up at the end of 2015, his board chair position opened up for a vote. It took a little coaxing, but Reid Dusheck was voted in as chair and Sally Berg got the nod to be vice chair. Mianowski’s seat will be vacant until someone applies to the city and receives a seat at the board.

Energy and Internet expenses

Local contractor Jesse Derscheid installed a new high efficiency propane stove at the park office last month. Tersteeg said he expects to see annual energy savings of 30 percent, and if a new roof, insulation, siding, windows and doors are also added this year, the savings on heat will increase even more.

At the request of the board, Tersteeg is in the process of seeking quotes for prices on renovating the office building. “We’re having trouble getting contractors to respond for requests to bid right now,” Tersteeg said. One of the problems is that lead was found in the paint on the outside of the building and anyone bidding would have to be certified to remove and dispose of the paint.

One of the things the park board was looking at was bringing Wi-Fi to camp sites, but Tersteeg said “Initial pricing for a park wide Wi Fi network using the True North signal had been proposed by Arrowhead Electric representatives and they range from $3,000 to $4,500 per month, 12 months of the year. That’s way too much. This would result in annual cost of $36,000 to $54,000 for ‘free’ Wi-Fi for our guests. Well beyond the scope of our current budget. Keep in mind, we do offer a free Wi-Fi hot spot at the office, which will be improved with our office connection to broadband.”

The board asked Tersteeg to meet with the board of Arrowhead to see if he can’t get a firmer answer on Wi Fi pricing, and to see if it can be done cheaper.

“We can’t give this to our guests at this price,” said Dusheck.

Harborside changes

Tersteeg is looking into the possibility of the park to become a “decontamination area” for boaters. “This service would include a wash down of affected watercraft with water captured by our municipal sewer system. Our parkside public access plans with the [Minnesota Department of Natural Resources] DNR depict an aquatic invasive species stall for decontaminating trailerable boats leaving Lake Superior,” he said.

Cook County Commissioner Frank Moe, a member of the county’s Invasive Species Team, approached Tersteeg with the idea. Tersteeg will attend an upcoming meeting with the county invasive species staff to learn more about what is needed for the park to gain that new designation.

Work behind the scenes continues for the public access plan, said Tersteeg. The Minnesota Land Trust recently provided a letter of approval for the plan for its “overall footprint and general layout,” said Teersteeg.

Senator Tom Bakk also has drafted the language for his support of funding for this project at the state level and will submit it into the 2016 state-bonding bill.

Tersteeg said 50 percent of the funds would come from state bonding and 50 percent from the DNR budget. The plan includes replacing the current rubble mound break wall with a new, larger break wall, and the park will also seek to replace the 30-foot-long dock with a 50-foot-long floating dock so larger boats that need deeper water could use it.

At the December meeting the park board received a recommendation by Grand Marais City Councilor Tim Kennedy asking the board to seek Regional Designation status through an application with the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission. Tersteeg is working on that and will submit it by spring, he said.


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