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The exterior of the building includes signs for special parking spaces. BRIAN BASHAM/TRIBUNE

Wetland District unveils building

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Wetland District unveils building
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Four years ago, the Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District started plans for an addition to their building on Tower Road, north of Detroit Lakes.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s wetlands headquarter office had various structures on the site that were used for offices and storage.

As construction crews started the project though, they ran into some troubles and Plan B took form that is now the new, extremely eco-friendly building that sits just west of the former building.

“They dug the footings and elevator shaft and ran into water — so we had to go up,” Project Leader Ryan Frohling said.

That “up” was just up the hill from where the old building sat. The addition was actually planned to be angled because it was too close to the wetland on the property, so moving the building up the hill and away from the wetland was actually a bonus — and it gives them a nicer view from the hill.

The building is a large improvement — in both size and being environmentally friendly — and has created lots of inquiries as to what exactly was going into a building that size. Frohling said he’s even gotten calls, asking if it’s a new hotel going up.

So, May 9, the wetlands district office is hosting an open house for the public to come see the new building and take tours of it. (Not that the public isn’t welcome every day, though, either.)

Going earth friendly

The new 13,868 square foot building has geothermal heat, and the lights are turned on by motion sensors and off by timers. Office cubicles rely on natural light pouring in through the windows and only dim lighting from the ceiling lights.

There are multiple skylights throughout the building, and there will be all native plants and grasses around the building, so there will be no need for mowing the lawn.

The impervious surface of the parking lot and driveway was minimalized, there is a wind tower in the yard to help with energy for at least some of the lighting, and environmentally-friendly materials were used in construction like fiber cement siding, wood framing and composite recycled content decking. 

Even the paint on the walls and the glue used to lay the tiles helped earn the silver rating with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program.

“The mechanics in this building are very impressive,” Frohling said. “We will be heated and cooled by the earth.”

Outside of the building, there is no “light pollution,” meaning no lights are pointed up to the sky. The parking lot lights shine directly down, and the flag on the pole is lit from the top, with the light shining down on the flag and not up at it.

There are signs in the parking lot for carpooling vehicles only and for certified fuel efficient vehicles.

Once the native plantings are in, there will be some interpretive signs planted to inform people of what they are.

“There are a lot of opportunities for people to come and we can do some self-interpretation there,” Frohling said.

The property was also annexed into the city of Detroit Lakes, so the wetlands office was able to hook up to the city sewer and water, which was a health benefit as well. Frohling said there were issues with the water quality in the old building and workers weren’t able to drink the water.

“It’s all we could ask for and more in a facility,” Frohling said. “It’s a conversation piece.”

Not to mention the convenience

“We had two or three offices before and this put us into one facility,” Frohling said.

There are 14 employees at the wetlands office and while they used to be scattered throughout buildings on the property, they are now under one roof. And though it’s farther from one end of the building to the other, it’s certainly nicer than having to go outside in the middle of winter to a neighboring trailer to see a co-worker, Frohling said.

Offices and a conference room take up the upper level of the building — which also has an observation deck with binoculars to view the wildlife and marsh — and the basement plays host to storage, bathrooms, a shower, break room and extra space for growth. Frohling said another entity may “co-locate” in the extra space until the wetland district needs it.

After the building was constructed (employees have been in since December) they were able to remove three permanent buildings from the site that had been used for offices and storage.

Also on the property is a prairie marsh trail that will be extended this summer.

The foot trail will eventually tie into the existing bike trail along Tower Road so people can hike the trail whenever they wish.

Right now, people can only access the existing trail during the day while the wetland office is open because there is a gated road to get up the building and trail.

The Friends of the Wetlands group will help construct the trail this summer.

“We’re really excited about that,” Frohling said.

Just ask questions

Not only does Frohling want people to come see the new building during the open house, he said he’d like people to just come ask questions about what the group does, too. 

“Wetland, prairie, wildlife, that’s our main message,” he said.

There will eventually be small kiosks, or interpretive stands, in the entrance of the building so “people can learn about us and what we do.”

The open house is May 9 from 2 to 6 p.m., with a dedication at 5 p.m.

There will be guided tours throughout the afternoon, and root beer floats and cake will also be served.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.

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