Our view: We can all get behind effort to link LakewalkOn our waterfront, at about 20th Avenue East, near where the western tip of Beacon Pointe Resort pokes toward a cluster of trees, Duluth’s picturesque and famous Lakewalk suddenly just comes to an end.
On our waterfront, at about 20th Avenue East, near where the western tip of Beacon Pointe Resort pokes toward a cluster of trees, Duluth’s picturesque and famous Lakewalk suddenly just comes to an end.
Its wide, smooth surface gives way there, first to a cul-de-sac and then to a city street: East Water Street, which has a narrow sidewalk on its uphill shoulder and no sidewalk at all on the other side. For several blocks, walkers, runners, in-line skaters and other Lakewalk users are forced to crowd onto that sidewalk or spill out into Water Street where they contend with resort traffic and other congestion.
Assuming users can find it, the Lakewalk picks up again at about 23rd Avenue East, on the other side of the bottom of a ramp from Interstate 35 North.
The Lakewalk’s odd and inconvenient missing link has been an ongoing, unfortunate and frustrating reality for years, with little room along the water’s edge, and even less political will, to finally build the portion that doesn’t exist. Why there’s so little shoreline or political will is a tired debate that, really, has become irrelevant. The resort and the nearby Ledges townhouses are built where they’re built. Rehashing whether that’s where they should have gone isn’t productive; it doesn’t get anything accomplished.
But that doesn’t mean the Lakewalk’s missing link
shouldn’t still be built, even as construction and planning march ahead to extend the popular hiking and biking path on both of its ends. Of course it should be — and can be, away from the water’s edge, on the other side of the resort and across Water Street from Lake Superior, where Lakewalk users already are accustomed to going. There’s room there for a true Lakewalk path. Surely plans can be finalized and money can be lined up to build the Lakewalk link there that Duluthians and our visitors deserve and have clamored for over many years.
Lakewalk construction there would cost a doable couple hundred thousand dollars, Mayor Don Ness told the News Tribune Opinion page last week. That’s compared to more than $1 million along the water’s edge due to the need for retaining walls, property acquisition and more.
“It’s not insurmountable (but) even coming up with (a couple hundred thousand dollars for construction on the inland side of Water Street) is a question of priorities,” Ness said. “It’s definitely much more affordable than on the lake’s edge.”
Anyone who doubts Duluth can get it done, can finally take care of a piece of Lakewalk construction nearly forgotten, can recall the overwhelming community effort that resulted in a gravel foot path along the water’s edge at the same missing-link site. While not a traditional Lakewalk, the affordable gravel foot path between the Ledges townhouses and Lake Superior satisfied a state requirement for “public park, recreation and trail purposes” that was part of a land sale that helped make the Ledges and Beacon Pointe a reality. The city faced a deadline to satisfy the state requirement. So on a sunny Saturday afternoon in spring 2009, hundreds of people turned out to spread and tamp down gravel to claim a piece of waterfront for public use.
Remember that? There’s no reason the same sort of community spirit and dedication can’t help make reality a piece of Lakewalk that would be missing no more.
“That option would get folks off Water Street, make a safer connection across 23rd Avenue East, eliminate a dip down that currently exists, and finally make that link,” Ness said. “From my perspective, if (the grass-roots Friends of the Lakewalk group) came out and said, ‘It is our priority, it is our position that we want to see the trail completed on the upper side of Water Street,’ we would work together to make it happen.”
Let’s make that happen. Let’s work together once again, even with no deadline this time.