Parks Canada announced that construction is set to begin on the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area Administration and Visitor Centre in Nipigon, Ont. Once complete, this landmark building will serve as Parks Canada’s primary operations base and visitor reception area for Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area.

A ground-breaking ceremony to kick off construction was held, attended by Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario and MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North, who gathered with Indigenous and community members. In January 2024, Minister Hajdu announced $37 million in federal funding for the contract award associated with construction of the centre.

“The Government of Canada is committed to supporting northern communities across Canada, like the communities here across Lake Superior’s North shore. Today’s ceremony marks the next steps in this incredible federal initiative for Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area. Construction of this landmark, net-zero building will create a permanent space to welcome visitors to our region and showcase the intricate history, ecology, and cultures of the land and waters of Lake Superior. This project is an exciting blend of conservation, economic development through tourism, and sustainable ecological design. We look forward to welcoming the public to this space in the near future,” said Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services, Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario and MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North.

The new Administration and Visitor Centre will be a place for connection and visitor discovery, and Parks Canada’s first Passive House Plus, net-zero carbon build. This eco-conscious project will serve as Parks Canada’s central base for administrative and operational functions for Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, including management, resource conservation, visitor experience, maintenance, and law enforcement. The centre will also welcome Canadians and visitors from around the world, facilitating meaningful visitor experiences by sharing the rich history of Indigenous peoples and coastal communities in the area, along with stories from above and below the surface of Lake Superior.

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Construction is anticipated to take two years, with a tentative public opening scheduled for 2026. As part of the day’s events, community members from along Lake Superior’s north shore were able to view conceptual drawings and learn about this net-zero carbon project that supports commitments in the Greening Government Strategy to net-zero emissions by 2050. This project will be the first Parks Canada administered building to be built to Passive House Plus certification and net-zero carbon standards, and will demonstrate innovation and leadership in sustainable building practices. Building to this standard not only contributes to reduced energy consumption, lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduced waste, and an increased climate resilience, but also provides a long-term net-benefit through ongoing operational savings for the life of the building.

“In a country blessed with 20 per cent of the world’s fresh water, Lake Superior stands alone as the largest freshwater lake on the planet. Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area will be a keystone in our Canada-wide network of protected areas managed by Parks Canada. Celebrating, managing and preserving this majestic and breathtaking body of water requires a showcase Administration and Visitor Centre, another example of how the Government of Canada supports the protection and celebration of nature and biodiversity from coast to coast to coast,” said Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada and Minister responsible for Parks Canada.

The construction contract has been formally awarded to Finn Way General Contractor Inc., based in Thunder Bay, Ont., following a competitive process. The contract includes initiatives that will promote employment opportunities and use of suppliers and contractors within local Indigenous communities. This project is the most significant federal investment at a Parks Canada administered place in the Northern Ontario region.

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“Parks Canada has shown leadership by constructing the Lake Superior Administration and Visitor Centre in Nipigon, Ontario and it will create a positive ripple effect in the economy and boost growth across the entire region. This project is an example of how this government has been able to balance environmental protection and economic growth. Environmental protection is resulting in the creation of good, permanent jobs and long-term positive impacts to communities across Northwestern Ontario. I am proud to see the construction contract awarded to a local Thunder Bay company and to know that in turn will create economic growth and job opportunities throughout the region,” said Marcus Powlowski, MP for Thunder Bay-Rainy River

Featured image: Lake Superior Administration and Visitor Centre concept image. (NORR Architecture & Engineering/CNW Group/Parks Canada)

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