College of Biological Sciences to rebuild cabins

by Jerret Raffety

The College of Biological Sciences is fund raising to rebuild two cabins on Lake Itasca, in northern Minnesota.

Severe deterioration from years of aging has damaged the cabins at Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories, said David Biesboer, the station and laboratories’ director.

Students use the cabins for many projects, he said, and the first facility to be rebuilt is cabin 30, which housed eight to 10 students. The cabin was demolished in fall 2004, because it had a cracked foundation and a collapsed chimney, Biesboer said. When the cabin is rebuilt, it will be known as cabin 37.

“These are relatively simple buildings,” Biesboer said. “They weren’t built or manufactured to last this long in a harsh northern climate.”

The rebuilding efforts will also update the cabins with better lighting, larger and more modern windows for fire escape and better insulation, handicap-accessible doors, and new electrical and heating units, Biesboer said.

Ames Sheldon, College of Biological Sciences development director, said the college hopes to raise approximately $50,000 for cabin 30.

That money will go toward excavation, foundation construction, basic plumbing, electrical work and materials for the cabin, according to documents from the college.

Fund raising began in March and is expected to be completed by June 1, Sheldon said. There will be a foundation laying for the cabin in May, she said.

Construction on the project is expected to begin in September with a volunteer crew of college faculty members, retired faculty members, students, alumni and community members, she said.

The college is expecting to raise most of the money for the cabins with larger gifts from private donors, Sheldon said.

However, at least $5,000 of the money will come from small donations of individual donors, she said.

The other cabin to be rebuilt is designed for six to eight faculty members.

It is expected to have a budget of approximately $150,000 for architectural drawings, purchase of materials, excavation and foundation work, plumbing and electrical work, the documents said.

Both cabins have already received a challenge grant from the estate of Thomas Morley, a former University professor.

There isn’t yet a clear time frame for rebuilding, Sheldon said.

Some current and retired faculty members said they support the reconstruction efforts because the cabins contribute to teaching and research at the University.

James Koerner, a retired faculty member of the department of biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysics, who worked at the station and laboratories for 10 years, said learning at Lake Itasca can be more effective than in a classroom setting.

“You’re in a climate of science out there with no distractions,” he said.