Duluth Parks and Recreation unveiled the focus areas of a long-term revitalization and resiliency project for the Lakewalk and Brighton Beach during a public meeting Thursday evening. The project highlights long-term plans for the area that will be ranked by the city for priority, then completed as funding becomes available.
With LHB as a landscape architecture firm and AMI Consulting Engineers as coastal engineer, the department identified 11 areas along the Lakewalk that would undergo various degrees of change, plus additions of paths, entries and picnic spaces that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and shoreline stabilization along the entire shore.
Part of the project focuses on trail realignment. The Lakewalk would be moved back from the shore, where possible, to protect it from future storm damage or changes that come with climate change. Some realignment will make segments of the path ADA-accessible, including decreasing the grade at the Water Street intersection and making the 90-degree turn near the tunnel more gradual, project manager Heidi Bringman of LHB said.
The width of the Lakewalk, Bringman said, would increase to 15 feet in all possible areas. Some parts of the trail run very close to the shore, the North Shore Scenic Railroad, or both, which may not allow for 15-foot widths. In these cases, the path would be 12 feet wide.
A large aspect of the resiliency project focuses on shoreline restoration and "rewilding" the vegetation in the area. Social trails — informal paths created by trail users that are typically shortcuts or alternate access points — are problem areas for erosion, senior parks planner Cliff Knettel said. Some social trails on the Lakewalk will be filled in with native vegetation, while other trails would be formalized by the city. Bringman said there were 53 social trails marked on the project plans.
Kitchi-Gammi Park at Brighton Beach, which is currently closed to the public for restoration after damage from several storms, will need significant landscaping after the road is done, Bringman said. There are plans to have the wetlands in the area drain in a more natural way into the lake, allowing the drainage paths to shift with future conditions.
"We're looking at future resiliency efforts to ensure that we don't suffer some of the same damages and catastrophes in future storm events," Knettel said.
Additional picnic areas, a natural play area and several pavilions are also planned to be dispersed along the Lakewalk.
Two members of Friends of the Lakewalk commented during the meeting, stating that they were appreciative of the plans highlighted in the Lakewalk-Brighton Beach Resiliency Project. The panel from the city and consultants assured them that the pollinator gardens, which have been created with money volunteered by members of Friends of the Lakewalk, would be preserved and that additional pollinator gardens could be added to the planting plans.
Part of the shoreline restoration plan includes planting trees, which caused a meeting attendee to raise concerns about impacts on the lake view. Jim Shoberg, landscape architect and parks planner for the city, said that the trees would be planted on the hill side of the trail and would frame the views rather than become a solid wall.
"Every picture is better with a frame, and these trees will be planted to better frame views out to the lake," Shoberg said.
The city hopes to finalize the Lakewalk-Brighton Beach Resiliency Project's preliminary design next month, with construction on the highest-priority aspects to potentially begin next summer. Knettel said the timeline will entirely depend on funding availability and the city's timeline of other projects.
An overview of the entire proposal with diagrams, plus a recording of Thursday's meeting, will be available at duluthmn.gov/parks/parks-planning/progress-in-the-park/lakewalk-improvement-project. Knettel said additional comments about the plans can be submitted online or to city officials as they work to finalize the preliminary design.