Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center to open

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Karen Gallema is a member of a fourth generation family of clammers. Her family is featured within the education and visitor center. In this picture she is featured beside a cut out of her mother Grace Verdon. On the left is Jim Janett, conservation director of the Allamakee County Conservation Board. (Photo by Rachel Mergen)

Pictured is the view from one of the center's balconies. (Photo by Rachel Mergen)

The Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center in Lansing is preparing for its grand opening Aug. 12. (Submitted photo)

By Rachel Mergen

 

“There is no other place like this in the United States,” Jim Janett, conservation director of the Allamakee County Conservation Board, stated about the unique area that is the driftless region.

The driftless region, which is the area left untouched by glaciers, includes four states—Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois. To teach about the geography, history and wildlife of this region, the Allamakee County Conservation Board has worked to build and prepare the Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center in Lansing. The stunning, 10,000 square-foot-building will have its grand opening Saturday, Aug. 12, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The center contains information from every corner of the region. The board helps to educate tourists on what they can see when visiting the area, including information on sights like the Villa Louis and the Fort Crawford Museum. The information and locations can be found on a table map display when walking into the building. Visitors can walk through the map in the path created by the Mississippi River and view the different states’ prominent tourist destinations.

For locals, the Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center also has its benefits. Inside there are hands-on activities and educational opportunities for people of all ages. The center is meant to help reveal what exactly helped create the counties and cities that driftless area residents are now used to.

The timber, fishing, clamming and fur trading industries are touched upon within the design of the building. There is an extravagant mural, which shows a Native American encampment, that reveals the complex Native American history of the area.

The inhabitants of the area are also included on display. A variety of living snakes occupy glass display cases. Beside them, other common creatures, including frogs, may also be found.

Also included in the building is a classroom in the basement that will allow for both youth and adult learning. Janett hopes to bring in a variety of people who have a thirst for knowledge and an interest in what made the area what it is now.

An awe-inspiring view can be experienced from the building’s balconies. Visitors can view boats and animals traveling the Mississippi River. In the future, the Allamakee County Conservation Board has plans to set up a webcam on their website that will show the river constantly.

The building was built on historic land, known for being the location of the first courthouse of the county, that had become run down over time. “The county wanted to develop it to its biggest and best use,” Janett stated. The property was handed over to the conservation board, and plans for the building began to form as funds were raised. For the architecture of the building, the goal was to use the small space in the best way possible and to allow for the best views for those who visit.

According to Janett, the education and visitor center could not have been completed without the work of hundreds of volunteers, the board members and the large amount of support from the community. He also showed his appreciation for the many grants that were received, including the Federal Transportation and Enhancement Grant that totaled approximately $1.4 million.

The Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center is located at 1944 Columbus Road, Lansing. For more information about the center and the Allamakee County Conservation Board, visit www.allamakeecountyconservation.org.

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