Birkie working to breathe new life into Telemark Lodge

Birkie working to breathe new life into Telemark Lodge
Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 4:22 PM CST
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CABLE, WI. (Northern News Now) - While the Birkie kicks off in Hayward Friday, the American Birkebeiner is working on a new outdoor event center just miles away.

The new center will be located on the site of the old Telemark Lodge, a few hundred yards south of the starting line.

“People thought of Telemark as a place you would escape to in the North Woods and it would have all the things that you want it most importantly, great recreation and great friends,” said Ben Popp, Executive Director of the Birkie.

Popp says their goal when they bought the property was to restore it to its former glory.

Within the past decade, financial issues forced the lodge to close its doors.

It was eventually condemned.

Popp says the property piqued the curiosity of the Birkie Foundation.

“The property came for sale. But unfortunately, at that point in time, the lodge was condemned. And so it was a nearly million-dollar price tag to take it down. So it really took us a lot of thinking and pondering. Was it the right move because that’s a lot of money for a small nonprofit?” said Popp.

Popp said they went through with the purchase, intent on rebuilding the outdoor recreation destination from the ground up.

“After we were able to get the lodge down, the master plan really went into the fast motion, if you will,” he said.

Birkie leaders want to restore the space into a combination of biking roads, ski trails, and outdoor adventure opportunities. Since its purchase, a lot of those new features have already been installed.

The biggest part of their lofty goals lies right at the center of the outdoor space.

“That’s creating a new, nearly 13,000 square foot base camp. Building something that we’re really going to use as a launch point. It’s going to include everything from a small cafe to a space for rentals for bikes and skis,” Popp said.

Building the outdoor center is a massive undertaking, but one they believe is well worth it.

“We have a beautiful medium up here in the North Woods. This is an opportunity for us to share that with people who’ve maybe never had an experience like this before,” said Blair Flickinger, Marketing and Communications Director for the Birkie.

Popp believes it helps the foundation take an important step toward expansion and outreach.

“I think it’s not only going to ensure us our sustainability into the future, I think we’re going to more than double our reach. Getting people that are able to engage in the things that we think are so important is going to be fantastic,” he said.