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Debate gives Bergson, Bell a forum for environmental ideas

While protecting the environment has been one of many issues in the mayor's race, it was the main issue as the candidates faced off for the Izaak Walton League.

While protecting the environment has been one of many issues in the mayor's race, it was the main issue as the candidates faced off for the Izaak Walton League.

Charlie Bell and Herb Bergson were on the agenda Wednesday night at the Hartley Nature Center. Their topic was how to balance protecting the environment with economic development, especially regarding Spirit Mountain.

Bergson believes Duluth has opportunity to capitalize on the growth of eco-tourism.

"To me, eco-tourism is probably the fastest growing industry in the country," he said. "I think communities who get into it will do well."

Bergson said it is an activity that can bring economic development and that people will travel here for the environment. The candidate said he has been totally opposed to the Spirit Mountain golf course from the beginning.

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He favors an enhanced campground. Bergson said it would serve as an attraction and campsites could be taxed to produce revenue for other projects such as a bike trail from West Duluth to Canal Park.

Bell said the Law-Con issues (federal Land and Water Conservation Fund) should have stopped the process of approving Spirit Mountain. "It shouldn't have gone any further," he said.

"It should have been stopped earlier because it was a bad idea," Bergson said. On a related issue, both agreed the planning commission process and how it relates to the public could be improved.

Bell said the neighborhoods need to be aware of and understand project plans before they come to the planning commission. Bergson wants to diversify its membership, with more young people, women and members who are not rubber stamps of the administration.

Bell believed the city's natural resource inventory should be finished and become part of the city planning process. Bergson also supports funding the completion of the process. And both agreed on the importance of the long-range plan.

The pair differed on their ideas for the city's bayfront property. "DEDA (Duluth Economic Development Authority) has spend money there -- there has to be a return to the city," Bell said. He said future development could include retail and condominiums to provide that financial return.

Bergson, however, said he would not support retail or condos.

On Monday, Bell will address the Chester Bowl Improvement Club at 6 p.m. at the chalet at Chester Bowl. Bergson will speak to the same group at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 3.

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