On May 30, city administrators hosted a public workshop to share information with the City Council and city commissions on the fate of the Mud Lake causeway (“Stay or go? Mud Lake causeway debate nears crunch time,” May 31).
The mayor wants the causeway razed, and her administration is working to make that happen. However, the information presented on recreational access, economic development, natural resource preservation, and cultural resource preservation was respectful of different perspectives. People were particularly interested in designating the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad corridor, including the causeway, as a historic landmark. The designation would not apply to the LS&MR tourist excursion train.
In 2017, Duluth’s Heritage Preservation Commission recommended landmark designation, only to have city staff move the goalposts by questioning whether the designation would hurt development plans for the area. While heritage preservation would not hurt development, the council sent the recommendation back to the administration where it has languished since.
At the May workshop, city staff members moved the goalposts again by questioning the historic authenticity of the LS&MR because some bridges and rails have been replaced over the past 150 years. They suggested safety upgrades may disqualify the LS&MR as an authentic historic landmark even though the designation considers the rail corridor, not the condition of the tracks. That some rails from 1892 are still in service is amazing but not relevant. A similar authenticity standard was not applied to City Hall when it became a landmark.
I urge the commission to ignore the moving goalposts and, again, recommend Duluth's historic rail corridor of commerce and immigration for landmark designation. It will help the council responsibly decide the fate of the causeway. If the causeway is demolished the public will at least know what has been lost.