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New, More Expensive Duluth Lakewalk Connection Option Unveiled

Updated: 03/24/2014 8:44 PM
Created: 03/24/2014 10:00 PM WDIO.com
By: Alan Hoglund
ahoglund@wdio.com

Duluth's Lakewalk stretches more than seven miles. But in the middle there's a gap, and connecting the two ends could get expensive.

Runners and walkers found themselves with no path along Water Street Monday. Snow-covered sidewalks had them using the middle of the road. For two blocks, in front of the Beacon Pointe Resort near 21st Avenue East, the Lakewalk is missing.

How should it be fixed? The city has options.

In January, city councilors approved a application for a grant to help build a 10-foot wide paved path. The total project cost would be around $312,000.

But at a committee of the whole meeting at City Hall Monday evening, Engineer Tom Pfeffer explained new options to fill in the gap.

Instead of a path along Water Street, a six-foot-wide gravel trail would extend three blocks between Beacon Pointe and the shore of Lake Superior. A two-block paved path would then continue along the lake behind townhomes, and rejoin the existing Lakewalk around 25th Avenue East. This option would cost more than $1.8 million, city documents show.

According to Pfeffer, there would be some building challenges. "There is a wide ravine and that would require some sort of bridge or retaining wall structure."

The city would also have to purchase property, acquire easements and do shoreline restoration, according to city documents.

Alison Clarke has been pushing for a Lakewalk connection like the one proposed for more than a decade. She's OK with most of it. "I think doing it partially right is better than not doing anything at all."

Clarke told Eyewitness News that it would pose problems for people in wheelchairs and walkers. She'd rather see the whole section paved.

"That is necessary to provide for maximum public use consistent with the rest of the cross-city trail."

What still needs to be determined is how to pay for the project. It was supposed to be done with property tax dollars from development there, but Mayor Don Ness said the money was instead used to help solve a $6 million budget deficit. 

Clarke said it's still an option. "Those high-end developments are producing enhanced tax revenue. It's just a matter now of what to do with those revenues."

Ness voiced his support for the Water Street path option. But he told councilors that administration would support the decision of the council.

According to Ness "the dollars that we're spending here are dollars that aren't going to be spent somewhere else."

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