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Commentary: Measuring Duluth's 'green' space needs some cultivating

Memorial Day weekend is coming up in a few days. It is a time to share our outdoors with family and friends. Memorial Day represents a solemn reflection, a time to pay tribute to those who served us with honor and who helped preserve the freedom ...

Memorial Day weekend is coming up in a few days. It is a time to share our outdoors with family and friends.
Memorial Day represents a solemn reflection, a time to pay tribute to those who served us with honor and who helped preserve the freedom we all enjoy. Weather permitting, we move around the community directing our thoughts reverently as we look ahead. Memorial Day is a significant example of the greatness of our country, its people and its responsibility to govern.
Maybe next weekend will also provide us with the opportunity to observe Duluth's multitude of green space and reflect on how citizens from other communities are "green" with envy when they compare their neighborhoods with our wonderful community. It is a time to look around and watch nature beginning its new cycle of growth in so many ways.
It seems, however, that select groups of people in our midst want to turn Duluth into one giant park. Their efforts reflect, by example, an ongoing opposition to the Spirit Mountain golf course development and some ongoing opposition to any commercial development as part of the pending waterfront plan. They expound with great concern about a planned destruction of valuable green space. They contend continuing urban growth and development will simply destroy our quality of life.
But wait a minute, let's do a little comparing.
Minneapolis, with a population of around 360,000 (1996 estimate) has approximately 170 city parks situated on 6,400 acres of dedicated land. Minneapolis is featured as the City of Lakes and is touted as having a great quality of life image. We certainly agree.
Duluth, on the other hand, has an estimated 82,000 people and controls 11,000 dedicated acres of land. The city maintains 125 municipal parks, playgrounds and public places. When you drive around, you find that most neighborhoods are generally subdivided with green areas, a nicety that is not often found in other urban developments. All this is to the credit of previous planners, neighborhood involvement and a total sense of community pride. We can't brag enough about the quality of life we have here.
Now, however, there seems to be an imbalance of logic regarding the term "green area," and this imbalance will not necessarily serve our best interests. Green is defined in Webster's dictionary as: "an often improved and ornamentally planted open space for public use in a built-up area."
I'll buy that. Do you believe 125 city parks plus other designated spaces fulfill that definition?
Now, back to the golf course and the waterfront area. Certainly the waterfront will soon become the showpiece of our city. An 18-hole golf course, near Spirit Mountain, would also be a welcoming doormat for visitors and tourists alike. Golf courses, unless you are in Arizona, are green with trees, shrubs and well groomed landscaping. The course, on the hill, would generate more than green grass; it would generate another "green" -- in this case, dollars to benefit all the citizens of this city. Spirit Mountain needs a multi-seasonal agenda, and summer activities certainly fit that bill.
That's my point. Taxes generate the fuel to operate our city. In addition, private and public enterprise raises that tax money and other revenues to make things happen. We simply cannot crawl into a hole and not adjust to the reality of the times. Green is green, although it does have other meanings, one of which is "moola" to support the recreational and cultural aspects we expect. What is the current lawsuit going to cost? Surely the time, energy and money could be directed toward better causes.
One final comment for some to chew on. There are a few who are opposing this project for selfish reasons. When it comes to leadership, the whole picture has to be brought into focus, not narrow, self-serving interests.
I agree, the natural environment has to be protected as well. I don't see this as a problem here.

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