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Red pine lodge may be crowning building achievement for YouthBuild crews

Building trades students have been proud of projects completed throughout East Otter Tail County over the past two decades, such as the renovation of a former New York Mills church into the Community Action offices, but a project in the works for 2010 could be the "Taj Mahal."

A log-constructed masterpiece is being planned for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Hamden Slough Wildlife Management Area near Audubon. The building will serve as an interpretive center for wetland management, said Jon Skow, building trades instructor for the Perham-Dent schools and the Alternative Learning Center.

"Showpiece" is how Skow described the USFWS's plans for the 1,200 square foot log-frame building. "It is an elite way of building," noted Fred Sailer, director of the Perham Alternative Learning Center, which is also involved in the project.

The plan calls for 25 immense red pine logs from the government.

The preliminary work can be done in town-possibly at the vacant Phelp's Ford building-and then shipped to the site in the spring, for assembly and final construction in the summer of 2010.

"This is tricky, old-style construction. It's really a lost art," said Skow.

Enlisted for help with the project will be Jon Bachmann, an East Otter Tail sawmill operator and builder, who is one of only about five in the entire state who has completed specialized log-frame construction training on the east coast, said Skow.

"This will be very green, very earth friendly construction," said Skow, noting that virtually all of the "waste" wood after trimming the logs will be recycled for other uses and applications during the log construction.

During the school year, students have only about two-and-a-half hours a day to work on projects. In the summer, YouthBuild students-most of them attending classes at the Alternative Learning Center-can work 40-hour weeks on projects, and be paid through Minnesota CEP. The log structure is scheduled to be erected in the summer.