After receiving much public input both for and against a plan to convert a trail shared by skiers and walkers at Chester Park to ski-only use this winter, members of the Duluth City Council signed off on the change Monday night by a 6-3 vote.
The new designation is in keeping with the recommendations of city staff and the Duluth Parks and Recreation Commission.
The 1.8-mile shared trail currently is the only place in the city where skiers and walkers share the same path, said Duluth Parks and Recreation Department Manager Jess Peterson. She explained that these competing uses have resulted in conflicts and sometimes close encounters, including near-collisions.
Noah Schuchman, Duluth chief administrative officer, urged councilors to support the plan, which he said was "six years of hard work in the making." He pointed out that 4 1/2 miles of footpaths would remain available for pedestrian use in upper Chester, plus another 3 miles in lower Chester.
But 3rd District Councilor Roz Randorf noted other narrower footpaths in the park may be impassable in the winter for walkers, especially those with limited mobility. "I'll be voting 'no' on this, not because we didn't do our due diligence and hard work, but because there are folks who would have no other access to a park than this, and I cannot stop them from using that," she said.
At large Councilor Arik Forsman threw his support behind the plan to restrict wintertime use of the trail to skiers, saying he fully recognized "that there's good points on all sides of this."
Joining Randorf in the minority were 2nd District Councilor Joel Sipress and at large Councilor Derek Medved.
Enger Park Golf
In other business, councilors unanimously agreed to enter into an exclusive agreement with a prospective developer exploring an opportunity to develop housing on about 10 acres of land that are now home to the Enger Park Golf Course's driving range.
A resolution passed Monday authorizes city staff to work with Consortium Minnesota Consulting Group LLC, a group that will have until Jan. 20, 2020, to put together a proposal.
At large Councilor Zack Filipovich stressed that the resolution passed Monday does not obligate the city to sell the property but rather simply allows for conversations to continue.
Consortium Minnesota's founder and CEO Keith Baker said he plans to meet with community members and stakeholders to discuss what kind of development might be a good fit for the site.
City staff foresee an opportunity to bring mixed-income housing to the area, said Adam Fulton, deputy director of Duluth's planning development division.
Any future proposed sale would need to return to the Council for approval, and Sipress noted that the proceeds of any sale would be reinvested in the municipal golf program under the terms of a previously adopted plan.
"Our public golf courses are desperately in need of funds to do capital maintenance that will allow them to be sustainable for the long term. And the city, even before the pandemic, did not have the funds to be able to do that," he said. "So, what was identified as a potential source of funding was to identify two parcels — a larger parcel at the Lester Park Golf Course and this smaller parcel at the Enger Park Golf Course — for a potential sale for housing development, again with those funds to be used to reinvest in our golf program."
This story originally misidentified at large Councilor Arik Forsman, using an incorrect last name. It was updated at 9:45 a.m. Sept. 15 with the proper surname. The News Tribune regrets the error.