Last week, the city of Duluth paid to have discarded mattresses, a recliner and other trash hauled away from the side of 108th Avenue West. But more junk arrived in short order. A drive down the road Thursday afternoon revealed more mattresses, another recliner, a toilet, an old chainsaw, a couch and a couple of plastic bins tossed at roadside.
In an effort to stop the illegal dumping, Duluth city councilors Janet Kennedy and Derek Medved are proposing an extraordinary measure. They will offer a resolution Monday that could lead the city to block off a problem stretch of the road to traffic, at least temporarily.
Unfortunately the trash-strewn road is nothing new, according to Medved, who said: "This has been going on for many, many years."
He noted that last year a Winnebago recreational vehicle was abandoned alongside the road and set afire.
Through the years, Medved said the city has spent thousands of dollars and dedicated many hours of staff time to cleaning up messes others have left behind on the Gary-New Duluth road.
"They've picked up countless mattresses — I mean hundreds probably at this point if we had a tally over the years — couches, dressers and just about anything people can think to dump back there," Medved said.
"In my mind, being a resident of Gary and hearing the concerns, the neighborhood stakeholders are fed up with this, because it has been going on for many years," he said.
Kennedy said: "There's been conversation with community members about a trial of closing off a portion of this road and that the city would be doing a study of what that looks like."
"This is something the community has asked for, and within the study we'll also be able to hear if this is going to impact the community negatively in any way. So, it's not a decision to close it fully. It's just a trial with a study," she said.
Medved referred to some of the dumping as downright disturbing, such as a couple of years ago, when he said, "Somebody killed a bunch of coyotes and skinned them, then dumped all the remains on that road."
Neighbors and law enforcement have stepped up efforts to bring the dumping to an end, but Medved said they have not been successful.
"So, in my mind, in speaking with councilor Kennedy, we kind of just said, 'Hey, let's shut it down, because dumping has just been increasing over the past couple of weeks,'" he said, noting that the situation continues to be a drain on city finances and staff time.
Noah Schuchman, chief administrative officer for the city of Duluth, said: "I do know it's a problem that city staff recognizes. So I understand why this action is being proposed. It clearly has become a known spot."
By cutting off the flow of traffic over this section of road, Medved hopes it will be easier to flag any nefarious behavior in the area.
The proposed temporary blockage of 108th Avenue West would stretch from 300 feet north of West Dickson Street to Becks Road.
Meanwhile, the city would study the impact of the closure on traffic, as staff consider a long-term solution, whether that's a permanent barricade of that street segment, better lighting or stepped-up monitoring.
Kennedy stressed that no residents will lose access to their property under the proposed plan.
"We're not foreseeing that it's going to impact or cut anyone off at this point," she said.
Medved said he has no illusions the problem is going to completely go away.
"I think it's going to continue to be an ongoing thing. I think dumping is not going to go away just because we close this portion of roadway. It might transfer to Morgan Park or it might transfer to Fond du Lac. But at least people are aware of the decision that the council and city staff are making because of this issue," he said.
Medved urged the public to exercise vigilance and report any suspicious activity that may indicate dumping so that scofflaws can be held to account.