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What would you like to learn about Lake Pepin?

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Jil Garry, a member of the committee planning for the Lake Pepin Interpretive Center in Lake City stands next to the screen showing one of the many historic pictures of the lake, and Lake City, that will be part of an open house this weekend to get public input on the plan. This shows the old fishing float outside the main harbor that was used until about 30 years ago when it was battered in a storm and sank.
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LAKE CITY — Lake Pepin is a natural rarity — a lake that's part of a major river — and it's a lake rich with human history, where waterskiing was invented in 1925 but also where 98 people were killed in 1890 when the Sea Wing paddleboat was flipped by a tornado or strong winds.

Those stories are part of what the Lake Pepin Interpretive Center wants to tell.

But first, the center needs a home.

Even before that, the committee promoting it wants to hear what the public wants to see in the center. An open house to hear those thoughts will be Saturday and Sunday in Lake City.

"It's reaching out to the people," said Jil Garry, a member of the committee.

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Her group is part of Destination Lake City that is promoting the town along the lake as a place to visit and vacation. Money for the center would come from the city, state, foundations and other sources, was the plan, she said.

At first, the committee was sure it would locate the center, along with the Lake City Chamber of Commerce and its welcome center, where the old Conoco station was on the south side of the downtown near the Lake City Marina. A developer, however, is planning to use that for a large hotel, which Garry said the city needs, so her committee began looking at other buildings in the downtown.

So far, it hasn't found the right one.

Part of that center would be the lake's history from Native Americans to today when it's facing a threat from sediment filling it in much faster than natural, she said.

"As we kept talking, our vision expanded," Garry said. They decided they wanted to add more of an entertainment and educational facet, not only history. It could be a place for talks by Department of Natural Resources experts or people from the Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance .

Another part would be the new Lake City Area Arts group that would like to have items or exhibits there, Garry said.

Now, it has decided to step back so they can go forward with more of what the community wants.

"I think we are focusing more" on getting the background, she said.

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As part of that, the Wabasha County Extension office is surveying people about what they would like in the center.

The center committee is also trying to raise some money to pay for posters, experts to evaluate buildings and other expanses, she said.

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Two boats of anglers troll Lake Pepin Thursday at Lake City. The lake is known for its fishing as well as its rich history, including one of the worst inland maritine disasters in U.S. history.

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