Boosting Biodiversity and a Rural Economy

Photo by Mark J. Harlow


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


In 2017, community members from around the Crosslake Chain of Lakes convened with University leaders in three public meetings to shape a vision for the National Loon Center, a community-based design project led by the National Loon Center Foundation,  the University’s Center for Sustainable Building Research and the University of Minnesota Extension's Central Resgional Sustainable Development Partnership. 


According to University Senior Research Fellow Virajita Singh, the project wouldn’t be possible without the input of local residents. “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,” said Singh.


Humphrey School of Public Affairs graduate student Joe Polacek also contributed to the design process by implementing community feedback in new design illustrations for each community meeting. “We ended with a masterplan and building concepts that were developed with the community in the driver’s seat,” said Polacek.


Scheduled for completion in 2021, the National Loon Center seeks to improve cohabitation of loons and human populations while creating opportunities for community gathering, education, and ecotourism in Crosslake. “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,” said Singh.