The Cross Lake Recreation Area is located at 35507 County Road 66 in Crosslake, Minnesota.
The National Loon Center Foundation, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization, is proposing the construction of a 15,000 square-foot National Loon Center Facility as well as 3,100 linear feet of shoreline protection efforts at the Cross Lake Recreation Area. The center will include a welcoming entrance and lobby area, interpretive displays, an aquarium, indoor/outdoor classrooms, laboratory, gift shop, conference rooms and office space, and a kitchen designed for concessions and large group events. The architectural design of the facility will conform to a “Northwoods” theme with fountains and a fireplace.
Loon focused learning opportunities will extend beyond the interpretive exhibits and into the bay and throughout a trail system along the shoreline. An interpretive trail, multi-slip docks, and shoreline protection measures will provide visitors with a unique and educational experience.
Projections suggest the facilities will draw 80,000 visitors each year to the recreation area.
The NLCF has been granted a 25-year land lease by the federal government for the construction and operation of all facilities. In the fall and winter of 2021, the first series of site improvements were completed. Those enhancements included sidewalks and boardwalks that will connect the future center to 15 floating dock piers that are in use as of the summer of 2022. Shoreland restoration was completed prior to dock installation and will stabilize and regenerate a degraded area. A floating classroom, called the StewardShip, was acquired in the summer of 2021 and launched its on-water education programs in July of 2022.
The NLCF secured a $4 million grant from the state of Minnesota’s Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) to initiate the project. It has also raised an additional $1.5 million in charitable contributions. While other significant state and federal grants are pending, the NLCF is aggressively engaging corporate and foundation partners and major individual donors to secure funding sufficient to meet the projected $16 million total project budget and enable a public grand opening in 2024.