Duluth's Playfront Park upgrade won't include a move

Duluth's Junior League will bring a plan for its new Playfront Park to the City Council tonight -- a proposal that keeps the city's most popular playground at Bayfront Park.

Duluth's Junior League will bring a plan for its new Playfront Park to the City Council tonight -- a proposal that keeps the city's most popular playground at Bayfront Park.

If the council approves the proposal, as the Junior League expects, the new $146,000 state-of-the-art playground could be completed by next summer.

"Why would you say no to an organization that's willing to raise almost $150,000 and put in a new playground?" said Denise Bussa, a Junior League member who is helping lead the project. "The old park has to come down after this summer anyway, whether we replace it or not."

The playground, which would be built by Landscape Structures Inc. of Delano, Minn., would be made with 80 percent recycled materials and would consist of activities designed to promote upper-body strength and provide an aerobic workout for kids.

It would replace the 18-year-old wooden playground that is reaching the end of its life.


"When they showed us a video of similar playgrounds, the kids just looked at it and stared for a couple of minutes," Bussa said. "Two hours, later they couldn't get the kids off the playground because there are so many interactive things for them to do. It almost looks Jetson-like."

The Junior League originally proposed building the playground near the Lakewalk, next to the Canal Park Lodge. The city denied its request for several reasons, including that the area might be needed for a storm-water overflow tank. Playfront didn't fit with what the city had in mind for the area, said Kathy Bergen, director of the Parks and Recreation Department.

"I don't think anybody had real strong opinions in either direction," Bergen said. "Keeping it on Bayfront complements the whole area, and it is kind of a tradition 20 years in the making for the park to be there."

Bayfront also offers amenities not available near the Lakewalk, said Charles Froseth of the city's Department of Planning and Development, such as parking and restrooms.

Bussa said the Junior League sees the potential in both locations.

"It would be used extensively in either place," she said. "Keeping the [Bayfront] location spreads out the recreational opportunities of our city. The biggest benefit of being on the Lakewalk is that people could access it from any spot on the Lakewalk. On the other hand, that could have been a liability, drawing more people to the already crowded area."

Remaining at Bayfront will allow the playground to remain visible from the freeway, which was initially the main objection to moving it.

As proposed, the new Playfront would be divided into four separate areas. On the right side of the park as you face the lake will sit the Evos structure, a twisting landscape of nets, monkey bars and rope bridges.


In the middle of the park will be a shade structure serving as a resting and picnic area for families. Closest to the existing Playfront's restrooms will be the adventure ship, an area of the park designed for younger children that will be surrounded by a giant rubber surface in the shape of Lake Superior.

On the side of the park nearest to the William A. Irvin will be swing sets and tire swings.

The colors used in the park's design will be similar to the red and blue of the nearby Great Lakes Aquarium.

The Junior League has begun its fundraising effort. In addition to seeking personal donations, the League plans to hold a pennies-for-Playfront drive and other activities through the summer and fall.

The League also is applying for grants and has received $10,000. The money comes from a charitable trust managed by Wells Fargo, which was set up many years ago by an anonymous Duluth resident with instructions that it only go to projects that improve Duluth, according to Lisa Mandelin, a Wells Fargo vice president. The Junior League also had money from the construction of the original Playfront Park, Bussa said.

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