Hands-on Learning Is Coming to Lake Minnetonka’s Shores

by | Jan 2023

Old Building

Photo: Chris Emeott

Wayzata center will offer STEM-based education.

Hands-on learning is making its way to the shores of Lake Minnetonka with the renovation of a former home for railroad foremen and their families into a lakefront learning center as part of the Panoway on Wayzata Bay’s $30 million-, multi-phase project. Construction of the Sandvold Lakeside Learning Center is set to begin in April with the goal of opening by September 2023, but construction schedules can impact that time frame.

Peter Hitch is the executive director of the Wayzata Conservancy, the nonprofit group behind the project. As part of the founding committee behind the Minnesota Children’s Museum, Hitch has a passion for providing opportunities for youth. “The learning center will provide hands-on learning for children,” he says. “It’s going to be wonderful.”

Panoway on Wayzata Bay, a decade-long project, was born as a municipal utility project in 2012 and gathered citizen input to flourish into the vision it has become. The intention of the effort is to restore, protect and enhance Wayzata’s downtown lakefront. The learning center will complete phase two of three phases, according to Hitch.

The learning center will offer science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education with a hands-on learning focus to help children develop a variety of skills. Elementary- and middle-school aged youth will have opportunities to learn about ecology, sailing education and more. “Any way you can imagine having that type of STEM learning [will be available],” Hitch says. “Our vision also includes classes on ice … It’s the general concept of hands-on and being outdoors.”

Hitch says the project was selected to receive a $200,000 award from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources in early September will “top off” funding needed for this portion of the overall project. “There’s really a legacy push to this,” he says. “This stuff has been here. It’s not new. We want to bring it back, so people can enjoy their history.”

As a public, private partnership with the City of Wayzata, Panoway is funded through state, local and private dollars. “We’ve raised about $850,000 privately for this project,” Hitch says. “The goal is to raise another $9 million privately to get us all the way through phase three.”

Phase three of the project includes a $3.5 million creation of an Eco Park (complementary to the learning center) and the $3 million expansion and remodel of the Depot Park surrounding the historic Wayzata Depot. Both are slated to begin in 2024. “It’ll be a big part of the learning,” Hitch says of the parks. “The learning center will bring kids outside to the Eco Park to play in the dirt.”

With a long way to go, Hitch speaks highly of the progress made and the excitement for the future. “What we’re trying to do is make Wayzata a better place for its residents and people coming to see us,” he says. “This is a chance to make Wayzata better for our kids.”

Sandvold Lakeside Learning Center exterior rendering.

Renderings provide a sneak peek into what the learning center is slated to become, an opportunity to bring education and hands-on learning to the shores of Lake Minnetonka in Wayzata.

History Lesson

Wayzata’s section foreman house is home to a rich history and has been designated on the National Register of Historic Places, Hitch says of the house built by the Great Northern Railroad in 1902. Section foreman houses were built approximately every 30 miles to the West Coast for the foremen and their families. Hitch says the Wayzata structure is one of six remaining in the country.

While there will be some changes to the home, Hitch says something will remain the same. “The outside of it is going to look just like it did, down to the color of the paint,” he says.


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