Mini-Wakan shelter project finally complete

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

It's been in the works for over five years and finally, renovations to one of the most dynamic shelters in Dickinson County is complete. Mini-Wakan State Park -- located on the north shore of Big Spirit Lake -- received a number of improvements throughout the past few years as part of a $1.2 million project. The park features a brand new dock as well as a renovated shelter with indoor plumbing. The project was a joint effort between the Spirit Lake Protective Association and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

"We are delighted the way the local community came together," said Spirit Lake Protective Association member Joe Ulman. "It's a wonderful project, I personally couldn't be happier, and based on what we heard from our open house, people are stunned about how it turned out."

The shelter itself has an extensive history. The original Mini-Wakan shelter was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the spring of 1934 with 2,400 square feet of floor space accompanied by various benches, trails and a stone bridge. But fast forward to the mid 2000s and the condition of the park had diminished drastically.

"We started out five years ago (in 2007) with a building that simply had a history that was rather remarkable but was in total disrepair," Ulman said. "It barely provided cover in the rain. There were holes in the roof and the windows and doors were gone."

At a public meeting in 2007 it was announced construction would begin on the project. A committee was formed consisting of a number of local residents and a DNR representative.

Together, the Iowa DNR and the Spirit Lake Protective Association raised more than $1 million for the project.

"What it now represents is a finished shelter that can be used for reunions, weddings," Ulman said. "It's completely enclosed and fully restored."

The structure now boasts a large room that is completely furnished by the DNR, a gallery kitchen and another large area adjacent to the shelter for outdoor groups. In addition, with the new dock, boaters can now pull up their boats and enjoy the state park.

"There are now restrooms that haven't existed there for many years," Ulman said. "There are many things on the property that have been improved."

An open house showcasing the renovations inside and out was held on Aug. 11.

"I encourage people to get out there to really appreciate it," Ulman said.

Even though a big chunk of the project has been completed, Ulman said their work isn't done. A new parking lot will be completed in the fall of 2013.

"We continue to fund-raise to set up longtime support of other state parks, people can get involved at," he said. "We appreciate what the community has done -- Okoboji Foundation, the State Historical Society as well as private contributions from citizens."

For additional inquiries about the project, the SLPA has a Mini-Wakan link on their website as well as a Facebook page with a number of pictures.

Reservations for the recently restored Mini-Wakan shelter can be made starting Aug. 20 by calling the park office at 712-337-3211.

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