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City may seek grant for Brighton Beach path

Weather watchers clog Brighton Beach Road in Duluth to watch large wind-driven waves on Lake Superior. (2018 file / News Tribune)

A newly configured Brighton Beach Road with an extension of the Lakewalk located below it could be in the works for Duluth.

On Monday, the Duluth City Council will be asked to pass a resolution authorizing city staff to apply for up to a $250,000 grant for the project. If it succeeds in winning the grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the city would be expected to provide at least a 25 percent match of up to $62,500.

Although the grant application is accompanied by a map showing a proposed layout of the road and recreational path, Jim Filby Williams, Duluth's director of public administration, said it should be considered a conceptual working plan, when he was questioned by 1st District City Councilor Gary Anderson.

"Are we going to be tied to this plan, and if so, when and how has the community been involved in the creation of this plan?" he asked.

Filby Williams described what he called "a dilemma" stemming from a couple storms that have badly battered the park, washing out sections of the existing Brighton Beach Road, which is now shared by motorized and non-motorized traffic.

"We secured federal funds to extend the trail through Brighton Beach and on a previously agreed-upon alignment. But since then, repeated storm damage has made it clear the status-quo configuration of the park with all of its infrastructure, inclusive of the street infrastructure, is not a sustainable, durable, long-term arrangement," he said.

"We do intend to engage the community in planning this site. But in the meantime, we have between now and next summer to bring to bear the significant additional federal and state dollars necessary to do a resilient fix there," Filby Williams said.

He acknowledged the timing of the proposed grant application is less than ideal.

"Normally we wouldn't bring this forward prior to that public engagement, but we're forced by circumstances to work on the financing before we have to spend the dollars in hand next summer," said Filby Williams, explaining that the federal funds the city has already procured for the project must be spent by 2020.

Anderson asked for assurances that the city would not be held to the plan it submits with its grant application.

Filby Williams said: "It will not bind us irrevocably to any particular map at this stage. I think when and if we receive the funds, we would make clear our intentions at that time, and if they were not willing to accommodate the flexibility we need, then we would decline the funds."

Peter Passi

Peter Passi covers Duluth city government and community issues. A graduate of Carleton College, he has worked as a reporter for more than 30 years and joined the Duluth News Tribune newsroom in 2000.

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