Habitat restoration project begins at Grassy Point

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Monday, the Grassy Point Recreation Area closed as crews begin a habitat restoration project.

"This particular site was the home of two sawmills back in the late 1800s. And they just dumped all their wood waste in the harbor," Daryl Peterson, Minnesota Land Trust director of restoration programs, said.

Chunks of wood can still be seen along the shoreline of the St. Louis River in West Duluth. The Grassy Point project is part of a large-scale cleanup of the St. Louis River Area of Concern.

Peterson said over the past couple of years, the Minnesota DNR and many partners have cleaned up much of the wood waste in the area and created some new habitat for native species, including a nearby island.

"We’re complimenting a lot of their work by working on planting the island with forest species, doing some wetland work to really benefit the project for birds and really looking at the benefit to some of the secretive marsh birds," he said.

One of the first big changes will come as the old boardwalk at Grassy Point is ripped out.

"We’re putting in a new natural surface trail," Peterson said. "We’ll have some areas kind of specifically made for birding where you can kind of walk out and look down into the estuary and see some of the birds."

They’ll also open up parts of the wetlands, digging "potholes" that will be filled with open water enclosures birds like.

"This has been known as a great birding spot for many, many years. And we’re hoping to actually make that better," Peterson said.

He hopes it also gives people a sense of what the harbor used to look like.

"We’re seeing a response from the birds and the fish as we clean these places up and as the water quality improves in the estuary, we’re really seeing a response by the natural systems, and that’s really encouraging," Peterson said.

According to a city document, there is a canoe and kayak landing planned there too. Work is expected to finish up in July.