Plans to build a pedestrian-only extension of the Lakewalk along the shore in front of Beacon Pointe and a townhome development called The Ledges will be placed on hold indefinitely.
By a unanimous vote, the Duluth City Council approved a resolution that will not only halt any further work to advance the path but will also redirect $915,000 in federal disaster aid that had been earmarked to repair a crushed stone shoreline path that had already been installed in front of the Ledges. That path has been closed since 2018, due to storm damage.
But engineers estimate it would cost about $2.4 million to restore the path, potentially leaving the city to pick up the remaining $1.5 million tab.
Under the resolution adopted Monday, the $915,000 in disaster relief funds for the path at the Ledges will now be used to help fund repairs of other storm-damaged areas, including Brighton Beach and Waabizheshikana, Ojibwe for the Marten Trail, formerly known as the Western Waterfront Trail.
The resolution was tabled a couple weeks ago, at the request of Jim Topie, president of a citizens' group called Friends of the Lakewalk, who asked for more time to inform the community and gather public input.
Topie said a public tour of the area was conducted Oct. 6 to provide a firsthand understanding of the situation between 21st and 26th Avenue East. He described extensive damage to the path by The Ledges.
"At the Pointe, the farthest west condo complex, we viewed, and it was explained to us that for much of the length of the shoreline, if the trail were built today, much of it would be underwater in Lake Superior," he said.
Based on what he saw, Topie said: "It's time to abandon plans to restore and build a path within this area, as its vision has met its end."
Nevertheless, Topie expressed hope that the city will take steps to ensure the public continue to have access to shoreline in front of the Ledges.
However, any hope of establishing public access to the shore in front of Beacon Pointe appears unlikely, as the public easement through that property was premised on the construction of a Lakewalk extension. Hence, no path. No access.
Topie's assessment of the situation at Beacon Pointe was in keeping with that of 2nd District Councilor Joel Sipress, who said: "Going down and seeing the situation at Beacon Pointe, it's crystal clear that the proposed pedestrian trail that would have closed that gap in the Lakewalk simply cannot be completed, and I say that with great disappointment, because, as we discussed at the last meeting, a lot of community stakeholders put in a lot of time to come up with a really bold and creative vision to close that gap in the Lakewalk.
Council President Gary Anderson joined his colleagues in voting to abandon plans for the Lakewalk and to redirect disaster assistance to other projects, but he acknowledged the public frustration that accompanies an unrealized vision for the area.
"There are some people in our community who are continuing to grieve over this loss of access to the lake, and that's a real thing," he said.