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Falls eyeing riverfront development


The City of International Falls and Voyageurs National Park are looking at developing property on the riverfront in the future, namely a $9-million Voyageur Heritage Center, a new VNP headquarters, and the Irvin N. Anderson Amphitheater.

The city owns 21 acres on the waterfront, including 11 purchased only a year or so ago, International Falls Mayor Shawn Mason noted Monday, adding this is land located directly across the river from the La Verendrye Parkway.

The amphitheater will seat 2,000 people while the heritage centre, which will be connected to the VNP headquarters, will offer much to see and do, said Mayor Mason.

“To the west of us, the land is owned by a private developer and he’ll be developing an AmericInn Lodge & Suites, with many amenities on top of that,” she added.

While still in the planning stages, Mayor Mason said the city’s “optimistic this project will come to fruition.”

“We need both state and federal funding, and we’ve been approved by the federal government. Our project meets the criteria,” she remarked.

The International Falls Chamber of Commerce is going to be hosting a meeting at noon tomorrow at the Holiday Inn regarding the riverfront development (note: this event requires an RSVP).

“Kate Miller, the park superintendent, myself, Rod Otterness, and our architects will be there to talk about the project,” said Mayor Mason. “We’ll have some graphics to show people.”

In related news, Mayor Mason is spearheading a new initiative to market Voyageurs National Park—a non-profit organization called Destination Voyageurs National Park.

Mayor Mason stressed this latter initiative is not affiliated with the City of International Falls like the proposed buildings mentioned above.

“They’re totally different,” she noted. “I’m launching Destination Voyageurs National Park as someone who’s passionate about the tourist industry—it’s not a city function.

“The mission is to connect people to Voyageurs National Park via implementation of an ongoing comprehensive marketing and public relations campaign that will effectively encourage awareness and increase visitation and economic growth,” she explained.

A advisory committee is in the process of developing bylaws and policy for DVNP. In November, it will hand over the reins to a board of directors, which will include representation from the state, tourist organizations, and public and private groups.

That board then will develop the DVNP strategic plan and implement it. Mayor Mason is expected to serve as its first director.

Mayor Mason said she feels the park, which is Minnesota’s only national park, is under-utilized.

“I really believe that many Americans, including the vast majority of Minnesotans, do not know that national park exists and is here for their enjoyment,” she remarked.

“It’s very important that we connect the travelling public to this park by educating them on the many opportunities for recreation and relaxation,” she added.

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