By Mike Biebl It is 75 degrees out and there isn't a cloud in the sky. What could be better than a walk along Duluth’s beautiful Lakewalk? After starting out by Leif Erickson Park, you head north and eventually run into a gravel path that continues along the shore. While you would prefer to continue along the lakeshore, you decide to go inland and follow the newly extended section that goes through Lakeside.
The Lakewalk extension has been a thorn in the city’s side for years now. The whole process has been marked by delays and the lack of commitment of both parties.
Alison Clarke, president for the Friends of the Lakewalk organization, has been a leading advocate for the extension since moving back to Duluth in 2003.
“This ongoing process has been very challenging to me,” Clarke said. “There have been many ups and downs along the way, I just try to stay positive.”
As recently as 2003, the extension for the Lakewalk lacked any land for which it could be built on. According to Clarke, this started to change in 2003 when Duluth began discussing land acquisition with the then current owners of the land.
Beacon Point was the first to accept the city’s proposal for an easement of land along the shore. According to BusinessDictionary.com, an easement is interest, permission, privilege or right which one property owner has in (or through) the property of the other (usually that of a neighbor), for a specific, limited purpose. The agreement meant that the city had secured the first step in a Lakeside extension.
From there, they focused their attention to the Edmunds Company. They also agreed to an easement through their land in exchange for acquiring 22nd Avenue East. The only stipulation of the agreement was that the city had to improve the land somehow. According to Clarke, this could be as simple as adding a sign saying that this was the Lakewalk.
There was only one small piece of land that was holding up the progression of Lakewalk extension, the private ownership of land between the Ledges Townhomes property and the Edmunds Reality group by Cindy and Paul Hayden. They, quite coincidently, are the owners of Lake Superior Magazine and had purchased the land as a headquarters for their business. According to Clarke, they are willing to sell their land, but they want market value, which is estimated to be around $500,000. The city doesn’t have enough money to afford this piece of land.
Even without ownership of the Hayden’s land, the city took a step forward by creating a gravel path in 2007 along the land, which they either owned or were granted through easements.
They now sit at a standstill because without securing the land from the Hayden’s, they can’t put a paved path in.
“I just wish the project could get finished,” Clarke said.
The Duluth Lakewalk extension is just another example of the troubles that go along with securing land for recreational parks. Dating back over 100 years, there are many chronicled troubles that go along with park creation.
In 1916 the Organic Act created the National Park Service. “The service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations hereinafter specified by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose of the said parks, monuments, and reservations, which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations,” according to the Organic Act of 1916.
The United States currently has the most national parks of any nation with over 390, according to the National Park Service website. This number is continually changing because the United States realizes the importance of preserving the land.
In recent years, the securing of a two acre plot to complete the Gettysburg National Park had become one of the National Park Service’s number one goals. Like the Lakewalk, the owner was willing to sell, but the price was more than the amount allotted by the NPS. In 2009, with the help of local fundraisers and the NPS, the two acre spot was purchased.
The Lakewalk extension wouldn’t be a national park, but according to Clarke, the city has applied for both state and federal help.
“We need all the help we can get,” Clarke said.
The Lakewalk has a long and interesting history with the City of Duluth, and this issue will continue to be important to Clarke and others in the city until it gets finished.