Clubhouse future uncertain as Blueberry Pines golf course opens after devastating winter fire
MENAHGA, Minn. — It's one of the top golfing destinations in Lakes Country and nearly four months after a devastating fire, the course is back in full swing.
The Blueberry Pines Golf, Dining & Event Center in Wadena County is open for business, but its landmark log clubhouse is gone after being reduced to ashes by a January fire. An exact cause was never determined, but fire officials believe an old propane tank may have been to blame.
The clubhouse and event center has been replaced with a trailer, and while the golfers miss it, they are happy the course is open again.
"It's hard to find a place within 50 miles that maintains its greens and tee boxes very nicely, and that's what the attraction is for me," said Joe Thielen, of Park Rapids, who frequents the course and was worried he wouldn't be able to return. "It broke my heart. I did not think they would be able to keep the course going"
The kitchen and bar were destroyed in the fire, as well as 60 golf carts that had been put away for the winter and all the pro shop merchandise.
"I couldn't believe it was happening. I thought: 'when was I going to wake up?' " said golf course manager Gavin Mickelson, who had left the golf course about 30 minutes before the fire.
He had just arrived at his fish house when he got the call about his home away from home.
"I lived here 60 hours a week during the summer, 30 hours a week during the winter. I was here all the time," Mickelson said.
"Just watching the clubhouse burn, a lot of things (went) through people's heads about what was going to happen," said Menagha resident Ken Haskins.
The course itself was undamaged by the fire and the golf carts have been replaced. The only reminder of the devastation now is the trailer that replaced the clubhouse, and Golfers say the course is still in great condition.
The clubhouse is nothing more than a sandpit now and the bar just a folding table, but the course has plans to try to keep the popular community gathering spot alive.
"We are going to run the beer cart more than we did last year, and maybe put a tent (out)," Mickelson said. The golf course plans to have more outside grilling and an outside bar, too.
The future of a new clubhouse is still unknown. The current owner has not decided if he wants to rebuild or if he will sell the course and let the new owner design a replacement clubhouse.