Improvements to Duluth’s Lakewalk moving forward

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Planned improvements to Duluth’s Lakewalk are moving forward after over $8 million in federal grant funding was awarded to the city.

The project, named The Lakewalk Interpretive Plan, aims to improve the safety, accessibility, and long-term resilience of the popular, multi-use trail.

“There are about half a dozen major accessibility barriers at present that are prohibitive for the vast majority of people in wheelchairs,” said Duluth’s Director of Public Administration, Jim Filby-Williams. “And this project will eliminate all of those barriers. So it will be fully wheelchair accessible for the first time. I think the project will make the lake walk substantially safer as the usage has grown and grown and grown. We’ve had more issues with collisions and crashes and and even short of that, just people feeling less safe. And so we will be using this project to widen the trail and wherever possible to separate pedestrians and cyclists.”

When finished, proponents of the plan say it will better connect Duluth’s downtown with the Lakewalk, and the city’s other experience districts. 

“I think any time that you can make our economic drivers–our business community–better connected with some of our recreational and resources, it’s just a win win for our community,” said Kristi Stokes, President of Downtown Duluth. This brings our tourist connected better with the business community. It allows our employees to have that stronger connection. Everybody uses the lake walk. And so this just further enhances what we can provide in our community.”

Beyond improvements to the physical, the project aims to help people connect with the landscape. Celebrating the distinct qualities and rich history of each area of Duluth’s waterfront.

“I think that people are connected to Duluth because of its uniqueness,” said Filby-Williams. “And part of that uniqueness is, is our unique history and all of the peoples who have made an imprint here. And so this brings those people and the work that they did to life, whether that was the early Voyagers or Indigenous people pre contact and, and today or um, our early industrial industrial development here in Duluth. Each one of those stories is a part of our whole story and people will be able to connect with that through the trail of storytelling.”

Storm damage has also been a problem in the past. The project will address this by moving vulnerable portions of the Lakewalk away from the shore. And where that’s not possible, the plan is to reinforce the shoreline.

According to project literature; the plan “anticipates a long-term implementation,” so it’ll be a while before construction begins. The project’s budget is estimated at around $2 million.