Duluth Council Unanimously Votes to Wash Out Lakewalk Extension Plans

The resolution calls to reallocate FEMA funds to repair the storm damaged shorelines at Brighton Beach and the Marten Trail. 

DULUTH, Minn.- Duluth City Council unanimously passed a resolution Monday to leave a missing part of the Duluth’s Lakewalk trail disconnected after storms severely eroded the shoreline in 2018.

The resolution calls for the indefinite closure of the shoreline trails behind the Ledges Townhomes on 21st Ave. East, and indefinitely halting construction of a new footpath from the Beacon Pointe Condos to the main Lakewalk.

The Friends of the Lakewalk (FOTL) was initially hesitant about the resolution, calling for it to be tabled at the previous meeting for two weeks, saying the city didn’t give them proper notice.

But after touring the area with Second District Councilor Joel Sipress, they saw how bad the erosion is and they’re starting to see the difficulty with working along that shoreline.

“We saw firsthand the shoreline damage and witnessed the complexity of restoring the Bluestone trail,” said FOTL President Jim Topie, joining the virtual council meeting by voice.

“The trail, where built today, would actually be underwater, under Lake Superior,” he said.

According to Joel Sipress, due to the ongoing effects of climate change, those trails would have cost city taxpayers $1.5 million to build the shoreline to withstand future storms.

This would be in addition to the $915,695 from FEMA.

Multiple councilors Monday said that would not be feasible or fair to ask taxpayers, especially given the city’s current financial situation.

“Because of the way the lake has changed there’s just not gonna be anyway we’re gonna be able to build that pedestrian trail,” Sipress said.

In an interview Sunday before the council meeting, he said if climate change isn’t taken more seriously, the Lake-side city of Duluth will face even bigger problems in the future.

“We talk about the price of climate change and we talk about the damage climate change will bring,” said Sipress, “”I think we can already see that climate change is bringing damage right now.”

As stated in the resolution FEMA funds will be reallocated to repair the storm damaged shorelines at Brighton Beach and the Marten Trail.

Despite council’s unanimous decision, Sipress said the city must still go to FEMA to request those funds be diverted to another project.

FEMA must approve before any work can begin.

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