Isle Royale visitor center moving

HOUGHTON – The Isle Royale National Park Visitor Center will be somewhere new this summer.

The center is beginning the process of moving from its building on Lakeshore Drive to the Keweenaw Peninsula Chamber of Commerce building on College Avenue.

While the move is only planned for the summer so far, it could become permanent, said Liz Valencia, chief of interpretation and cultural resources for the park. She hopes the move will be completed this month before the start of the Ranger III’s passenger service to Isle Royale.

Valencia said Houghton had approached the park about moving to the center. With FinnFest USA?2013 expected to bring thousands of people to the area, being in a prime location should boost the park’s presence, Valencia said.

“It would be a help for us to increase our visibility up there, instead of being down there where we are,” she said. “I think it’s a neat partnership opportunity for us.”

Valencia said the park’s buildings on Lakeshore Drive are reaching the end of their useful lives.

“They’re just not made to last, and we’ve been in there for a while,” she said.

However, the park will still operate the Ranger III from the existing visitor center during passenger season.

Karyn Olsson of the Chamber said the park will occupy about 50 percent of the building, and share the brochure area near the entrance with the Chamber. All of the Chamber’s activities will still go on, Olsson said, but less expensively, which she said will help its growth.

“I think what’s exciting is that (Houghton City Manager) Scott (MacInnes) has created a win-win-win for the community, for the chamber and for the park service by consolidating the visitors’ center,” she said.

MacInnes said the center would be able to put out more information now on the Houghton/Hancock area.

“In the past, a lot of their inquiries came there anyway, so we thought it was a natural fit for them to move up to a more visible location,”?he said.