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Facility welcomes motorists on I-35

The William E. Culkin Memorial Rest Area, located on northbound I-35 near Mahtowa, reopened on June 23, announced state Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick), Rep. Bill Hilty (DFL-Finlayson), and Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL-Hermantown).

The William E. Culkin Memorial Rest Area, located on northbound I-35 near Mahtowa, reopened on June 23, announced state Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick), Rep. Bill Hilty (DFL-Finlayson), and Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL-Hermantown).

The rest area was closed Oct. 19, 2005, during a period of state budget reductions. Although it served nearly 1,400 vehicles a day and cost only $116,000 a year to maintain, the rest area was never reopened after the budget crisis was resolved.

"Mn/DOT had proposed shutting down dozens of rest areas throughout the state during the budget crisis, but due to the public outcry against this proposal, Culkin was the only closure that ever materialized," said Sen. Lourey. "As a result, only miniscule cost-savings were realized and one of Minnesota's most scenic rest areas turned into an eyesore, with construction cones barricading the entrance and the grounds and facilities going without maintenance."

The William E. Culkin Memorial Rest Area originally opened in 1988 as a memorial to the northeastern Minnesota civic leader. Culkin served a term in the Minnesota Senate in 1894. After moving to Duluth, he was appointed as Register of the Duluth Land Office by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1897. He founded the St. Louis County Historical Society in 1922, and served as its president for 15 years. In 1973, his children donated 135 acres of land to the state to construct a rest area in his honor. Along with beautiful facilities, the rest area includes 2.5 miles of paved hiking trails.

"It's simply wrong that the land the Culkin family so generously and specifically donated to the state to serve as a rest area was shut down and allowed to remain closed for nearly three years," said Rep. Hilty.

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During the 2008 Legislative Session, a transportation policy omnibus bill was passed that included language of a bill sponsored by Sen. Lourey and Reps. Hilty and Murphy requiring the Minnesota Department of Transportation to reopen the rest area. Following the bill's passage, MnDOT began preparing the facility for operation.

"Finally, because of this legislative action, this rest area can once again serve the motorists of northeastern Minnesota as the Culkin family intended," said Rep. Murphy. "It not only serves a public safety function by providing drivers with a safe place to pull over, but a beautiful environment for them to recreate."

For more information on the Culkin Rest Area, contact John Bray, MnDOT District 1 Public Affairs Director, at 218-725-2708 or john.bray@dot.state.mn.us .

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