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Time runs out to preserve Park Point parcels

Houses will go up on prime beachfront property the city of Duluth is selling to get out of its financial hole. The controversial sale of the wooded parcels near Park Point Recreational Area will move forward after a conservation group passed on t...

Houses will go up on prime beachfront property the city of Duluth is selling to get out of its financial hole.

The controversial sale of the wooded parcels near Park Point Recreational Area will move forward after a conservation group passed on the purchase.

The Nature Conservancy, which works to protect critical habitat, had until Thursday to meet the $1.23 million offered by two bidders for three of four lots for sale on Minnesota Avenue between 43rd and 45th streets.

But they ran out of time.

"They were not able to come up with a package," said Cathy Podeszwa of the Duluth Audubon Society. Podeszwa was part of the team of conservationists, birders and residents working on a way to buy the land to preserve it.

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In September, when the Duluth City Council changed the city's comprehensive plan to allow for single-family homes on the parcels, they gave the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Nature Conservancy the right of first refusal. The four lots face 425 feet along Minnesota Avenue, divided by two existing houses.

"It was frustrating that the comprehensive plan couldn't help us, that land designated as park land really had no weight," Podeszwa said Friday.

In an e-mail last week, Courtland Nelson, the DNR's director of state parks, told the city they "have no interest in pursuing the acquisition of (the) parcels."

The Nature Conservancy's team included local DNR staff as it sought conservation easements or other ways to hold the land until the state could acquire it for possibly a state park at the end of Park Point.

The passage last week of a state amendment to increase the state sales tax to raise money for natural areas and the arts had given the group hope that state funds could be leveraged early to acquire the land. Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who has championed preservation efforts, seemed interested this week, according to Park Point resident Dave Johnson, who approached the governor about it.

With the deadline passed, the sale will go forward, with a likely City Council vote on Nov. 24. The sales should close by the end of the year.

The bidders -- Daniel and Amanda Thralow and Robert LaCosse -- plan to build homes for their families on the lots. So far, no one has bid on the third lot, which has a minimum asking price of $416,000.

Related Topics: PARK POINT
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