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Two Inlets grotto gets urgently needed restoration

A recent tuckpointing, sandblast and seal were the shrine's first major maintenance in over 60 years.

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Pictured June 9, 2019, the grotto bears witness to considerable wear after 60 years without any major maintenance work.
Park Rapids Enterprise file photo
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Debris, water damage and deteriorating mortar were among the issues overshadowing the Two Inlets church's shrine to the Virgin Mary as restoration work began during spring 2022.
Contributed / Gerald Kern

“We were riding up there, and we just walked down the hill to take a look at it and saw the need,” said Gerald Kern of Fargo, N.D.

Kern and a group of friends and relatives were on a UTV trip last fall in the Two Inlets State Forest when they decided to stop at St. Mary’s Catholic Church and walk down the hill to look at the Grotto of Our Lady.

“I almost didn’t feel safe down below the statue,” said Kern, “because there were rocks at the top that could have let go at any time.”

Kern, whose mother was born there, recalls spending a lot of time in Two Inlets as a child.

“The grotto was built in 1959,” he said, “and it had never really had any maintenance done to it since then – which gives a lot of credit to the Finnlanders, or whoever did that back then. You’ve seen the split rock and all the work that was put into that thing.”

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The fragile condition of the stonework can be seen as masonry work began during spring 2022 on the restoration of the Grotto of Our Lady in Two Inlets.
Contributed / Gerald Kern

Nestled in a hillside below St. Mary’s church, the grotto features an outdoor altar amid rows of park bench-like pews, flowerbeds, a cascading water feature, a cluster of field-stone shrines to the Stations of the Cross, and a rosary-shaped path looping around a young white oak. Front and center stands a stone arch with a statue of the Virgin Mary perched on one shoulder.

“I got hold of the church to see if they had any plans for tuckpointing and remortaring it,” said Kern. “They knew that it needed to be done, but it hadn’t been done. So, basically, I got the contractors lined up.”

One of the masons, Paul Hoglund, had done work for Kern before. Working with him was parishioner Terry Burlingame. “Those guys did a great job of doing the physical repair,” Kern said. “I had a good experience with (Hoglund) and I knew that he could do it right. Terry was also awesome.”

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The Grotto of our Lady at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Two Inlets shows much improvement July 28, 2022 after being tuckpointed, sandblasted and sealed.
Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise

Despite organizing the workers, Kern prefers to give them the credit for the improvements to the hillside sanctuary. Not a contractor himself, Kern is a former partner in General Equipment and Supplies.

“We had folks from A1A Sandblast Co. in Menahga come a month after it was done and the mortar had set up, and sandblast it,” he said, “because it had big lime and mineral buildup from the years of water running down through the cracks. They sandblasted and cleaned it up. Just Friday (July 22) it was sealed.”

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Related Topics: PARK RAPIDS
Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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