Duluth Lakewalk extends to Brighton Beach

Duluth Lakewalk is a path that runs 7.3 miles long. On this paved road children bike with their parents, others in-line skate, walk and run alongside Lake Superior. There are shops to stop at, a lift bridge to watch, boats to see, a Vietnam and Korean War Memorial to commemorate and gardens with 2,000 rose bushes to smell. The trail runs from Bayfront Festival Park to 60th Avenue East. Then Duluth Lakewalk stops.

“I wish it was just a little bit longer,” said Deborah Benike. “I was just hitting my stride.”

Benike is a frequent visitor to Duluth and likes to walk the path every time she comes. Since Duluth Lakewalk stops, Benike is forced to turn around and continue her walk.

It has been a question asked in the past why Duluth Lakewalk has not been extended farther. The Duluth City Council has unanimously passed motions to extend Duluth Lakewalk a half mile up the shore this summer until it reaches Brighton Beach. There might even come a time when riding a bike all the way up to Split Rock Lighthouse is possible.

The extension, starting this summer, consists of a new paved path, a bridge, and a tunnel.

"It is extensive work, it is a big leg of the extension for Lakewalk,” Jennifer Julsrud said, Duluth city council member. “Residents love it."

The construction should be concluded by Oct. 31, 2012 according to the project engineers.

The project is estimated to cost $1.9 million and will be less than a one mile extension said Matt Decur, a project engineer in charge of managing and planning construction for the expansion.

With the extensive work, the expansion is expensive.

No one is being directly taxed for this project. The extension is being funded by a Federal Enhancement Grant, DNR Grant, a City Parks Grant, and Capital Funds, said Decur.

For Duluth Lakewalk to be extended, 61st Avenue East will have to be shut down for the summer. Last year, Lakeside experienced the same type of closure.

"We had the same closure last summer on 61st Avenue East and Lester Bridge,” Decur said. “It is always a headache with all the traffic, but it is nothing people have not experienced before."

The first portion of Duluth Lakewalk path was completed in 1988, just a simple 400-foot path. Most of it was built by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, according to a city document, The Plan for the Duluth Downtown Waterfront. There have been multiple advances that have extended Duluth Lakewalk to 60th Avenue East over the years but the difficulty of obtaining land has kept it from reaching all the way up the shore to Spilt Rock.

The biggest problem with Duluth Lakewalk extension project was getting the land. The land had to be acquired by the EPA, part of the Federal Government. It was not dedicated for trails, so it was difficult to obtain, said Decur.

Ultimately, the goal is to have the Gitchi-Gami State Trail in Two Harbors extend down to Brighton Beach. Decur said the two trails would meet at the beach and become one. It is still in the planning stage so nothing is certain at this point in time.

If all the land can be acquired, someday the families in Duluth can take a paved run, walk, or ride up to Split Rock Lighthouse but for now, the extension to Brighton Beach is a step in the right direction.

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