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Sod turning in Nipigon for Lake Superior marine conservation visitors centre

$37-million eco-tourism attraction expected to open in 2028

Parks Canada broke ground on Saturday on the building phase of a $37-million building project in Nipigon.

The new Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area Administration (NMCA) and Visitors Centre is being built at the Nipigon Marina to aid conservation workers and allow the community and visitors to learn all about some of the things Parks Canada does to keep the big lake healthy.

The building will serve as Parks Canada's administrative and operational base of the marine conservation area.

The NMCA was announced over 10 years ago and they have been working out of temporary accommodations, according to Garth Grunerud, asset manager of the Northern Ontario field unit with Parks Canada.

“This will provide a permanent home for Parks Canada in the region of the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, which is basically from on land Nipigon to Terrace Bay,” he said.

“And that will allow approximately 30 employees in the summer operating months and about 12 in the winter operating months to do all of their work from a new state of the art facility.”

Present for groundbreaking ceremony was Thunder Bay-Superior North MP Patty Hadju, Indigenous services minister and the minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario (FedNor). During her speech, she mentioned the dedication her Conservative predecessor put into making this happen and that protecting the Great Lakes should be something that everyone can agree on."

The federal funding for the facility was announced in January with the construction contract being awarded to Thunder Bay's Finn Way General Contractor, following a competitive bid process. The contract includes initiatives that promote job, supply and sub-contracting opportunities for area Indigenous communities.

“The lake has had a very challenging history with industry for generations: discharging into the lake," said Hadju. "There are still many areas of the lake that are polluted or at risk of being polluted. And conservation areas like this play a really important role in not just protecting the lake, but educating people about the importance of protecting that lake and that should be a non-partisan issue.”

The new build is a huge project to be brought to a smaller community.

Nipigon Mayor Suzanne Kukko is for the opportunities it will bring, even beyond the jobs in the short term.

“It's extremely beneficial for not only Nipigon, but for the entire region. Our industries have gone down, obviously, in the past 15 to 20 years, the forestry industry, our (Nipigon) mill burning down (in 2007), the Red Rock mill closing, Terrace Bay mill closing,” she said.

“We really have to diversify our economies and tourism is a big part of that."

The new centre should take two years to complete and, if all goes according to plan, will open in early 2026.

- SNNewswatch