Open Standard Media Player version 1.3
DULUTH - Locals know Duluth as the Zenith City on the shores of the largest of all the Great Lakes. But just south of the port is the biggest freshwater estuary in the world, and Mayor Don Ness is ready to take advantage of it.
Monday in the mayor's state of the city address, he announced plans to re-develop West Duluth to cater to the trails and wildlife around the river.
West Duluth residents call the area around St. Louis River a hidden treasure, and now the mayor is realizing the same thing and hopes to attract vacationers interested in activity over attractions.
On the corner of 75th and Grand, you'll find a man whose name is proudly plastered on the front window of his family's motel. After half a century in the business, Willard Munger of Willard Munger Inn is handing it over.
The reason is because at 75 years old he can't keep up with all the trends.
“This is really a revitalized area,” Munger explained.
In his state of the city address, Mayor Don Ness says he's putting the focus on the St. Louis River corridor.
"Just as Canal Park has become a premiere tourist destination in Minnesota, the St. Louis River recreation hub will become Duluth's next great visitor experience," Ness explained in his 18-minute video speech.
In 1989, the St. Louis River was named one of the most polluted sites leading into the Great Lakes.
The goal is to have the river off the list by 2025 and make it a prime spot for tourists looking for a nature-based trip.
"They don't like going downtown and fighting all the traffic with the Canal Park,” Munger explained while describing his clients. “They come out here and kind of have it all to themselves."
With miles of hiking, biking, and ski trails combined with traditional fishing and boating on the water, the mayor is looking to use the natural resources already there.
“Instead of spending millions to build expensive tourist attractions we'll invest in quality experiences that can be enjoyed by both visitors and locals,” Ness said.
While new life takes over the old motel, Munger can take time to enjoy what he's known about for years.
“I can go hiking on the Hillside and it's like you're in the boundary waters,” he laughed.
To help complete his vision, the mayor hopes to re-establish the half percent tourism tax.
On average the tax brings in nearly $1.5 million a year. Its money West Duluth needs to make the area attractive.