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Lakewalk extension debate continues

Concerns continue to linger over a proposed Lakewalk extension between 20th and 26th avenues east that's long been the subject of debate. A feasibility study on the segment is underway by LHB and is expected to be presented to the Duluth City Cou...

Concerns continue to linger over a proposed Lakewalk extension between 20th and 26th avenues east that's long been the subject of debate.

A feasibility study on the segment is underway by LHB and is expected to be presented to the Duluth City Council by the end of the year. About 40 residents attended a feasibility-study update Wednesday, sharing their concerns over the hours the segment can be used, their lake view being obscured by a landscape buffer and potential problems with the city obtaining easements across all the properties.

Councilor Joel Sipress said afterwards that it was a good meeting because it's important to receive input during the process and hear what LHB had learned thus far.

Lakefront developments were constructed in 2005 and 2006 with the expectation that the Lakewalk would be extended, but Beacon Pointe was constructed so close to the shoreline that it would take expensive engineering to extend a multi-use Lakewalk path along the shore.

LHB is studying whether it's feasible to extend a five-foot, pedestrian-only path along the shoreline instead, said Heidi Bringman, landscape architect with LHB.

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The Metropolitan Interstate Council counted about 400 pedestrians and 400 bicyclists Aug. 12 at 23rd Avenue East and Water Street, according to MIC senior planner James Gittemeier.

Sipress explained during the meeting that the city isn't in the design process for the Lakewalk segment and the city council hasn't decided whether it will move forward on constructing it. The feasibility study is gathering information on the costs and engineering that would be needed to construct the segment while being respectful to those who live in the developments along the proposed route, he said.

LHB has determined so far that the city has the easements necessary to construct the segment with the exception of two parcels - one privately owned and one on tax-forfeited land. The city would need to need to obtain an easement and needs to have discussions to do so if the city council decides to proceed with construction, Bringman said.

Carol Burns, who lives in a condo along the proposed segment, said after the meeting that she's concerned that the natural scene isn't destroyed and with the safety of users attempting to go out along the shoreline.

The shoreline is comprised of concrete debris and rebar, likely left behind by the previous industrial users of the area, Bringman said.

A Lakewalk Task Force recommended the segment be open from sunrise to sunset. Several residents pointed out that sunrise is a good time to be on the Lakewalk and were opposed to the hours being changed to later in the morning.

Three options were presented to residents for a landscape buffer screening the Lakewalk from nearby buildings, although a resident pointed out that the tallest option - evergreen trees that can reach 20-feet tall - would obscure the lake view for residents.

Another public meeting is expected to be held in the next few months to provide more information and a conceptual landscape plan, Bringman said.

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