Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Press Release from Gunflint Historic Society

Press release 8/30/05
A proposal from the USFS to utilize a vacant lodge property on Saganaga Lake as a museum was the instigation for a group of area folks to get together, get organized and see what they could do. On Monday August 29th the Gunflint Trail Historical Society held one of its first organizational meetings. They’ve accomplished a fair amount this summer and have plans for much more.
This all started when the scenic by-ways committee was contacted by the Forest Service and told that the former Chik-Wauk Lodge property was not being used up to its potential and possibly there were other alternatives for it. The Forest Service bought out Chik-Wauk Lodge in 1980 with provisions from the 1978 BWCAW bill. It had been owned at that time by Ralph & Bea Griffis who had operated it since 1957. The Griffises under an arrangement with the Forest Service continued to live in the lodge building until the fall of 2000. It was their hope that the building would someday be put on the National Historical Registry. The building in question is a wonderful stone structure built in the early 1930’s by Art & Ed Nunstedt. It houses a spectacular fireplace of granite with amethyst and quartz accents. It’s located at the end of the Gunflint Trail on a couple of small bays at the end of the Sag channel that so far have been relatively spared by blow-down and fire. Since the Forest Service has taken over, the remainder of the old frame structures that were in disrepair have been removed and the grounds have been used for camping by portage crews and fire fighters and also the volunteer archeologists working on the Trail "digs". The old lodge building hasn’t lent itself to any of their particular needs of housing or storage.
The Forest Service was looking for a group to partner with to explore this museum concept. After a couple of initial meetings it was determined that yes there was a great deal of local interest in this idea and the Gunflint Trail Historical Society was formed. The Chik-Wauk project was the driving force behind the group’s organization but its mission really goes beyond this one project. There are so many properties and interesting folks that have passed through this area that have some wonderful stories. Therefore the mission statement is stated as: this society shall preserve the history of the Gunflint Trail and its early settlers for residents, guests, travelers, and future generations.
The Chik-Wauk Lodge is currently in a future use review by the Forest Service and has to be evaluated by it’s engineers for structural soundness and then the decision will be made by them whether it is economically feasible to put the building back in public use. Hopefully this decision will be made in early 2006 and that the go ahead will be given to get the building on the National Historical Registry. In hopes of this proceeding the museum committee of the GTHS is in the process of formulating plans for displays and exhibits inside the building as well as possible interpretive nature trails around the property to give folks a chance to experience what the Gunflint Trail and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area has to offer with the wonderful granite outcroppings, pine forest, and rich biodiversity of plant, animal and bird life. The Gunflint Trail Historical Society will be involved in fundraising, memberships, marketing, and gathering of materials. It also plans to be accredited with the MN Historical Society and registered with the IRS as a 501c(3) non-profit organization. If you are interested in learning more you can contact any of the board members or officers Betty Hemstad, Sue Kerfoot, Barb Tuttle Kathy Lande, Lee Zopff.

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