Sam Cook: Let's keep Park Point wild -- for Duluthians

Imagine the scene. A cool September morning on the shores of Lake Superior. A peach pre-sunrise sky. Migrating shorebirds peck at bugs along the sand beach.

Park Point beach
This area about 1.5 miles from the Sky Harbor airport parking lot on Park Point is the site of a proposed campground containing five to 15 sites. (Clint Austin / News Tribune)

Imagine the scene. A cool September morning on the shores of Lake Superior. A peach pre-sunrise sky. Migrating shorebirds peck at bugs along the sand beach.

You blink awake and slide out of your tent. Barefoot, you walk in cool sand down to the beach. You splash some water in your eyes.

Ah, morning in Duluth.

You're standing on the longest freshwater sandspit in the world. You're camping on Minnesota Point in Duluth's newest tourism attraction, a primitive campground on the sand beach beyond Sky Harbor Airport.

Duluth's Parks and Recreation Commission will soon consider whether it should endorse this primitive camping idea, and if it does, presumably the City Council would consider it, too.


This isn't a high-rise hotel. This isn't a golf course at Spirit Mountain. This isn't a mall expansion along a trout stream.

But it's my bet that this proposal will touch a nerve in our community, arousing emotions similar to those we've seen when other projects have been brought forth.

As envisioned, the camping area would include five to 15 individual campsites on the beach for up to six people and one tent per site. The city would have to provide and maintain some kind of restrooms. A task force report says the city also would provide firewood.

Certainly, camping on the beach at this quiet end of Minnesota Point would be a wonderful camping experience. I'm not sure how many people will want to carry all their camping gear 1½ miles down the Park Point Trail to get there. And it should be noted that the trail is flanked by the most robust stand of poison ivy I've seen anywhere in Northeastern Minnesota.

Some will kayak or canoe their gear down the lakeshore, which may or may not result in emergency calls if the wind comes up. Alcohol will find its way to the campground, and that will require occasional visits by police on mountain bikes or ATVs.

You can weigh all of that, along with some increase of traffic on Park Point and some inevitable wear and tear on the point's ecosystem.

But I think a woman I spoke to about this got right to the core of the issue.

"I'm not sure we want tourists to know about that area," she said.


I think she has something. Those of us who live here cherish our semi-wild parks, our neighborhood dog-walking trails, our quiet green spots where we can watch birds or simply feel the seasons changing. We are fiercely possessive of these places.

We'll give the tourists Canal Park and the Timber Twister. We'll share the Lakewalk with them. But we aren't so keen to give up our sweet spots off the beaten path.

I think this roadless extension of Minnesota Point qualifies as such a spot, and I think that's why many among us would be happy to leave it just as it is.

Sam Cook is a Duluth News Tribune columnist and outdoors writer. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or . Follow him on Twitter @samcookoutdoors.

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