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Duluth gets $750,000 grant to refurbish Lincoln Park

C.J. Butler and Elizabeth Lone enjoy the sunshine along Miller Creek in Lincoln Park. (June 2017 file / News Tribune) 1 / 2
A motorist drives by the playground in Lincoln Park. (May 2017 file / News Tribune)2 / 2

The U.S. Interior Department on Wednesday announced a $750,000 grant to the city of Duluth to help refurbish recreational facilities in Lincoln Park.

The project will improve playgrounds, basketball courts, disc golf and handicapped-accessible trails that federal officials hope will encourage local residents to be more active.

The 37-acre park features 1.5 miles of walking trails along Miller Creek in the neighborhood formerly known as West End.

The overall Lincoln Park recreation project will total about $1.75 million, including $550,000 from the city. The city is including it as part of its larger St. Louis River Corridor plan to revitalize outdoor recreation and access in harbor and riverfront areas in the city’s western neighborhoods. Another $250,000 has been raised from private sources, including U.S. Bank and other corporate donors.

It was the only federal parks grant in Minnesota in this round, and the first one ever for Duluth.

Phase 1 of the recreation project is expected to start in September, said Lisa Luokkala, project coordinator for the city. That work will include new bathrooms at the stone pavilion, which had been damaged by arson. The existing playground also will be removed, with a new 15-stall parking lot slated to be built there. A new play area will be built near the picnic pavilion.

A handicapped-accessible pathway also will be built for access to the playground area, with new lighting in the area. New signs and a new informational kiosk also will be added.

The federal grant will fund Phase 2 of the park restoration, including roadway improvements to Lincoln Park Drive and an upper terrace of the park where a soccer field and basketball court are in bad shape. Phase 2 will likely start in 2018 or 2019, Luokkala said.

“This is the first time we’re going to be able to complete a park master plan in just a few years, thanks to this grant,” Luokkala said.

The federal grant was part of $13.3 million doled out Wednesday to 22 cities in 17 states. The money comes from federal offshore oil and gas leases that stock the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Duluth grant comes out of the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program administered by the National Park Service, part of the Interior Department.

“Every kid deserves the opportunity to get outside and play. Whether it's downtown Duluth or rural Wyoming, investing in public lands is an investment in communities,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke in a statement. “The Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program is an innovative public-private partnership which revitalizes communities through improving infrastructure, creating jobs and enhancing neighborhoods.”

Creek restoration will close park starting Monday

Yet another project is underway in the park this summer, repairing and reconfiguring Miller Creek after damage caused by the June 2012 flood. Crews are ready to start the creek work in the park, the lower portion of which will be closed to the public during construction starting Monday and lasting for the rest of summer, city officials said.

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