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Hartley Park plan concerns users

A public meeting to discuss the final “mini-master plan” for Hartley Park on Tuesday night left some users concerned about accessibility and preserving nature.

“People spend a lot of time in Hartley Park; it seems as if they are trying to take away from the nature out there,” said Russell Anderson, a concerned speaker.

The city, along with the Nature Center staff, stakeholder group representatives, the city’s cross-country ski trail consultant and SRF Consulting have been working on a plan since May to make improvements and control resources within Hartley Park over the next five to 10 years.

“We are looking at all aspects of Hartley Park, such as what can we add or what can remain the same?” said Kathy Bergen, Duluth Parks and Recreation division manager. “It’s important for us to gather data from the public, so we can come up with a great plan.”

SRF Consulting revealed the third suggested plan at Concordia Lutheran Church and discussed the goals of the project including preserving Hartley Park, ensuring recreation activities are compatible with the park, trail recommendations, determining funding and improving access.

The floor was then open for comments and questions.

A number of people weren’t pleased with the proposed plan. Some feel as though asphalt trails take away from nature and accessibility will be an issue.

“We get that everyone wants to preserve nature, we respect that,” said Jeff Schoenbauer, a representative from SRF Consulting. “People don’t realize outdoor activities/nature trail usage is declining. The paved trails would boost usage up to 50-70 percent. We have to put things in the park people would use. We also realized it could help some people with physical disabilities.”

Bob Grytdahl, human rights officer for the Duluth Human Rights Commission, says officials are doing a better job of considering everyone from all needs.

“I think in the past, people with disabilities and architects of the plan needed to come together,” Grytdahl said. “They needed to understand the needs for handicapped people. Officials are doing a better job though; they are doing what they can.”

“We are trying to find the balance between keeping the park natural while also trying to improve the accessibility,” said Tom O’Rourke, executive director of Hartley Nature Center. “We are trying to serve a broad audience.”

The final draft of the Hartley Mini Master Plan is expected to be presented on May 14 at 5 p.m. at the Central Hillside Center. The plan was reportedly supposed to be completed by December, but the snow delayed the process. The City Council will consider the plan in late May or early June if the Duluth Parks Commission approves the plan.

To see the draft plan, visit