Boosting biodiversity… and a local economy

Loons on a lake.

A partnership between the University of Minnesota and the National Loon Foundation is laying the groundwork for a new center that will celebrate the biodiversity of Crosslake, Minnesota, while honoring some of its most recognizable natural residents: loons.

Scheduled for completion in 2021, the National Loon Center aims to improve the cohabitation of humans and loons while creating opportunities for community gathering, education, and ecotourism in Crosslake.

Last year community members from the Crosslake area convened with U of M leaders in public meetings to shape a vision for the center—a project led by the National Loon Center Foundation and a numer of entities at the U of M, including Extension's Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership and the Center for Sustainable Building Research and Design for Community Resilience programs.

The project wouldn’t be possible without the input of local residents, according to Virajita Singh, U of M senior research fellow. “In meetings with community stakeholders, we learned how the project can increase community resilience and bring the community and the University toward a common goal,” says Singh.

The project is kicking off with recreational enhancements and shoreline protection efforts designed to reduce invasive species and allow loon nesting. When completed, the National Loon Center will house the offices, interactive exhibits, and multipurpose rooms for community. Eventually, visitors will be able to take boat rides and collect water samples for testing back at the center.

“The environmental benefits are embedded in this project, and we know it will boost an already robust ecotourism sector in Crosslake. But the community’s feedback will help us achieve those things with authentically place-based design,” says Singh.
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities