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Split Rock River Wayside is officially opened

The Moon family and officials stands in the pedestrian tunnel under Minnesota Highway 61 at the Split Rock River Wayside Friday. The facility is dedicated to Larry Moon, a longtime advocate for the scenic highway. photo by Brittany Berrens

After years of planning and construction, the revamped Split Rock River

Wayside on Highway 61 was celebrated with a grand opening ceremony

last Friday despite strong winds and cool temperatures.

The family of Lawrence "Larry" Moon, for whom the wayside is dedicated,

along with members of the Minnesota Department of Transportation and North Shore Scenic Drive Council, gathered to tour the $350,000 wayside upgrades and had a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Planning for the wayside started about four years ago. It was recognized

that hikers and kayakers who parked there were having a difficult time trying to cross the highway to get to the lakeshore. Thanks to grants from the Lake Superior Coastal Program, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, a safer project design was created, which includes a pedestrian tunnel under Highway 61, enhanced trailhead access to the Split Rock River loop of the Superior Hiking Trail, and improved accessibility to the Gitchi-Gami Trail for bikers.

Much of the construction, which took about a year, was done while crews

also worked on Highway 61 near Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. The wayside has been open for much of the summer.

More than just a place to park, the Split Rock wayside serves as a memorial

to Larry Moon, who was the founding chair of the North Shore Scenic Drive

Council and served on the council until his death in 2005. He was instrumental in achieving an "All-American Road" designation for the byway. Only 36 other roads in the country share that designation. A panel on the trailhead information kiosk at the wayside has information about Moon and his involvement in the Scenic Drive.

Much of the grand opening ceremony was a dedication to Moon and his

family. "Words can hardly describe how our family feels," Larry's son, Charlie Moon, said. As a child, he said, he took many trips up the North Shore with his family and it always was a special place for them, which is why his father worked to get Highway 61 designated.

Others spoke of the improvements that have been made to the highway with the help of Moon and the council he created. Brian Anderson with Mn-

DOT said the wayside is just one of many planned wayside improvements along the highway. "You can always make improvements," Anderson said.

"It's not stopping at this." Plans are in the works to create a wayside rest on Highway 61 in Beaver Bay near Lax Lake Road. Like the Split Rock wayside, there will be better trailhead access, paved parking, landscaping,

and trail information. For the Beaver Bay wayside, they are also planning to add toilets. Funding is secured for the project, which is expected to be done in 2012 or 2013.