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Our view: Mayor's resolution a solution for Enger

Isn't this exactly what tourism taxes are for? Mayor Don Ness announced last week a resolution to allocate $372,226 from the city's Tourism Tax Capital fund to make long-needed and icon-saving repairs to Duluth's historic and landmark Enger Tower...

Isn't this exactly what tourism taxes are for?

Mayor Don Ness announced last week a resolution to allocate $372,226 from the city's Tourism Tax Capital fund to make long-needed and icon-saving repairs to Duluth's historic and landmark Enger Tower. In other words, the mayor suggested using the money dropped by tourists when they eat in our restaurants and sleep in our hotels to fix up one of the city's most-recognized tourist attractions.

The Duluth City Council is expected to consider the resolution today. Assuming the funding proposal is as straightforward and as transparent as it seems, its passage is a no-brainer.

Should any councilor be tempted to over-think, however, they can consider that Norway's King Harald V is planning to visit Minnesota and Duluth in October. The king's father, Crown Prince Olav, was the one who first dedicated Enger Tower way back in 1939, when little Harald V was just 2 years old. What self-respecting city would allow royalty's return to see, and to possibly rededicate, the tower in its current tuck point-needing, bluestone-lacking, concrete-crumbling, roof-leaking and poorly lit state?

Long-needed work had to happen anyway. Now there's urgency to make sure it happens sooner than later.

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With money in Duluth as tight as the economy is tenuous, and with the potential for darker days ahead should the state decide to solve some of its $6 billion-plus budget deficit on the backs of local governments, the mayor's resolution is a solution that makes sense.

There's no denying the tower's significance. The 75-foot structure and 600 acres around it were gifts to the city from Bert J. Enger, a Norwegian immigrant who made his fortune in Duluth selling furniture. Many thousands of tourists climb to its top each year, steeling themselves against the perpetually strong winds up there and marveling at the breathtaking, 360-degree views of Duluth, Northwestern Wisconsin and Lake Superior. The tower is "the crown jewel of Duluth's parks system," in the opinion of Mayor Ness.

There's also no denying Enger Tower has been neglected. If approved, the allocation from the city's tourism tax fund would qualify as "the most significant investment in Enger Tower since it was built," Ness said in the News Tribune last week. In an e-mail to councilors, the mayor added, "The tower itself is in rough shape: missing stones, pigeons living in the ceilings and general wear and tear of being exposed to the elements."

With council approval, the tower can be wrapped and enclosed before this week is over, and work can commence. The historic tower can be renovated and ready for tourists again by summer, which also is when a tower-lighting project is expected to be completed with $100,000 generously donated by the Rotary Club of Duluth to commemorate its 100th anniversary.

"It would be a shame to light the tower (if it) is only a shadow of its former glory," Ness wrote. "This is a historic opportunity for Duluth. ... With a community effort we will give the park an impressive shine and present to the king a park that we can all be proud of."

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