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City of Grand Marais to celebrate official opening of the Overlook Landing honoring George Morrison with Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on June 14

Jun 14, 2024 08:20AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: The Overlook Landing is located at the Community Connection Corner of the Grand Marais Rec Park. Taken by Laura Durenberger-Grunow.

By Laura Durenberger-Grunow - Boreal Community Media - June 11, 2024

A project a long time in the making is complete and will be celebrated on Friday, June 14, 2024, at 3 pm, with an official Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony. 

The Grand Marais Overlook Landing, located at the Community Connection Corner of the Grand Marais Rec Park (next to North House Folk School and Highway 61, off the Gitchi Gami Trail), was initially proposed in the 2009 Rec Park Master Plan. The idea came from feedback received during a year-long public planning process for a place where community members could enter the Rec Park without feeling like they were intruding on campsites. Dave Tersteeg, Parks Manager, told Boreal Community Media "The result of this public engagement created a 2009 Rec Park Master Plan concept map with a big purple star in the northeast corner of the campground labeled "Community Connection." 

 Image: 2009 Rec Park Master Plan

Two years later, design work for the Community Connection Corner began. According to Tersteeg, "Sketches of the Community Connection were reviewed and approved by the Park Board that addressed stormwater management, pedestrian accessibility, and curb appeal."

In 2012-2013 two original design goals (pedestrian accessibility and stormwater management) were achieved by implementing a "pocket park" with a rock basin designed to slow stormwater, and local high school students built a timber-framed pedestrian bridge in the place of two campsites. A paved walkway connecting the timber-frame bridge to the bike trail and Highway 61 was also added. 

The third goal not yet realized was curb appeal; "An attractive, visible landmark along the highway is what the Overlook Landing was intended to create, but we knew we had to wait," Tersteeg said. 

 Image: Original Community Connection sketch

The reconstruction of Highway 61 into Grand Marais paused the progress of completing the Overlook Landing project. Tersteeg shared that from 2014 to 2019, the Grand Marais City Council worked with MnDOT and the Grand Marais community to "effectively redesign the downtown Highway 61 corridor to be safer and more appealing for pedestrians and bikers."

However, just because physical progress was paused did not mean that the planning process was on hold. As part of the final designs for pedestrian-friendly amenities along Highway 61, Landscape Architect CJ Fernandez (who was hired by the city to facilitate the planning process) included the Overlook Landing. The Park Board and Highway project committees "universally praised and embraced" Fernandez's designs, which included "A wooden arbor and metal sculptural panels inspired by the modern mosaic artwork of George Morrison." Morrison's family has since given their support for the project."We wanted something you notice driving by that makes you slow down, maybe stop, and come back to discover. We used the natural elements of real stone veneer and wood benches to capture the rugged aesthetic of the north shore," Tersteeg added. 

 Image: CJ Fernandez's initial concepts for the Overlook Landing

Image: CJ Fernandez's initial concepts for the Overlook Landing

In 2022, bids went out for the project, which was to be funded by the city. Only one bid came in at $515,000. "It was way too much," Tersteeg said. In 2023, the project was sent out again and received several different bids ranging from the winning bid at $359,517 all the way up to almost $750,000. The $359,517 bid belonged to an Eagan, Minnesota company called Global Specialities Inc and JKP Inc. With contractors hired, the Park Department was able to provide funding through its capital improvement fund, along with a grant from the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation (IRRRB). "After 15 years of visioning, planning, and waiting, all of the pieces were in place to complete our Community Connection. Good things take time," said Tersteeg. 

 Photo: Overlook Landing under construction. Taken by Laura Durenberger-Grunow.

Recently, construction finished on the project, and an interpretive panel with a brief history honoring George Morrison was recently installed.  "We created a space overlooking the harbor that is calm, welcoming, and accessible. You can now stroll through the arbor or roll down the gently sloping paved pathway of the Community Connection into the Rec Park and no longer feel like you are intruding on someone's campsite. We asked, listened, and followed through with giving the community a gateway entrance into the Rec Park. Enjoy!"

To celebrate the completion of the Overlook Landing, a public Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony will be held on Friday, June 14 at 3 pm. 

 Image provided. 

 Photo: Overlook Landing. Taken by Laura Durenberger-Grunow.

Photo: Overlook Landing with colored panels and metal designs inspired by Grand Portage artist and resident George Morrison. Taken by Laura Durenberger-Grunow.

Photo: An interpretive sign honoring George Morrison was recently installed at Overlook Landing. Taken by Laura Durenberger-Grunow.

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