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OUR VIEW: The easy part of charrette process has ended

The formation of the East Downtown, Hillside and Waterfront Charrette Master Plan has been completed. Tuesday was the unofficial end of the planning stage.

The formation of the East Downtown, Hillside and Waterfront Charrette Master Plan has been completed. Tuesday was the unofficial end of the planning stage.

That was the easy part. Brainstorming is always fun and it is easy to set priorities. To make a difference to a community, however, people have to work to convert the good ideas into reality. That work is ongoing, and it never really ends.

Many plans are put in place, but then end up on a shelf collecting dust. We think the charrette has a chance to be different. Mayor Herb Bergson has appointed a 15-member Stewardship Group whose role is to maintain the momentum until the dreams become reality.

The unwritten overall goal of this process is to make the designated area as livable as possible. This will come about in both large and small steps.

One simple, small and yet incredibly significant step, for example, was to paint a line down the middle of the Lakewalk to encourage users to stay to the right except to pass.With rollerbladers, bicyclists and pedestrians all on the heavily used path, it's a wonder that more accidents don't occur. The line should improve the level of safety.

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Other suggestions are more difficult, but with forethought can be accomplished. Adding on-street parking, for example, will help retail businesses throughout the area. Better signage to parking ramps, just recently installed, will also help.

If we could choose just one proposal, however, that would make the greatest difference to the ambience of the entire area, it would be to improve the walkways over I-35 from downtown to Canal Park.

The traffic on Lake Avenue is so heavy, that the stress level of any pedestrian rises a few notches as he or she crosses over. When families with small children walk across, no child is allowed to walk without holding an adult's hand, and often the child is carried to safety on the other side.

Because of the current design, any changes will be expensive. The city needs to seek state and federal help. And yet, with the momentum gained through the charrette process, what better time than now to begin pursuing the dream of a walkway barricaded from street traffic where toddlers can walk without fear?

The more than 1,000 Duluthians who participated in the process need to keep pushing for all the proposals large and small. The charrette has helped us focus, but now it is up to us.

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