Parks & Recreation

Trails & Bikeways Master Plan

The draft Parks and Recreation Trails and Bikeways Master Plan establishes a blueprint to achieve an economically sustainable trail and bikeway system. These public meetings will allow those interested in the plan to review the work and to engage in conversation with the consultants, Master Plan Committee members and City staff.

Duluth, a four-season city with 11,000 acres of green space alongside the greatest lake in the world, has miles and miles of trails that allow for travel on foot, skis, bike or snowmobile. Duluthians and visitors alike love the trails for sauntering along Lake Superior, hiking through magnificent old growth forests or taking in a view on a rocky outcrop. Combining exercise with the beauty of the natural world is an important aspect of the high quality of life we all enjoy in the north country and in particular, Duluth.

Duluth is blessed with both trails and people who care for and maintain them. It is home to a national trail, the Superior Hiking Trail’s section of the North Country Trail, and to many regionally significant byways, such as Skyline Parkway, the Lakewalk and the Willard Munger State Trail. Nearly every neighborhood has a trails system that might contain hiking, biking, skiing or dog walking trails. And, more significantly, the trails of Duluth have dedicated volunteers who maintain them. Many of them have become key stakeholders and are actively taking part in assisting the City with its long-range trail vision.

A community survey conducted for the Parks and Recreation department in 2009 found residents felt “the #1” recreational amenity in Duluth is its trails, walkways and bikeways. The survey also showed that while the Duluth area has excellent trails, it lacks a network of community connection trails. Thus, the HKGi consulting group was hired to develop a Parks and Recreation Master Plan that also began to look at trails. The result should be a recommendation that Duluth prepare a Trail and Bikeway plan to visualize the potential of a comprehensive system of easily accessed trails and bikeways and a plan for conserving key corridors for future sustainable trail development.

Now, in February 2011, the City of Duluth is again contracting the services of the consulting group to develop a Trails and Bikeways Master Plan that will help Duluth achieve its goal of becoming the top trail destination center in the Midwest. The Trail and Bikeway Plan approach will be to incorporate existing trail plans laid out in the Duluth Comprehensive Plan and the Metropolitan Interstate Council with public input gathered at open houses during the Parks Master Plan process. The plan will focus on non-motorized trail use, working to ensure coordination of snowmobile trail use.

A Trails Advisory Group has formed, composed of key stakeholders, and is currently participating in workshops and meetings that are looking at needs, goals, accessibility issues, current trail and bikeway systems, route locations, management and maintenance, way-finding signage and more. These key groups take on responsibility for communicating with their members, gathering input and Plan feedback.

Those in the advisory group represent: the Superior Hiking Trail Association, Fit City Duluth, Cyclists of Gitchee Gummee Shores, Duluth Cross Country Ski Club, Wheels on Trails, local snowmobile associations, Friends of the Lakewalk, Friends of the Parks-Duluth, equestrians, Skyline Parkway, Parks and Recreation Commission, the Metropolitan Interstate Commission, City Staff from the Parks and Recreation, Public Works and Planning Departments, the colleges of Lake Superior, Scholastica and the University of MN-Duluth, Chester Park, Hartley Nature Center, Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, Skijorers and Trail Runners. Neighboring communities will also be involved as many of them have trail plans in place that include connecting their trails to Duluth Trails.

One of the goals of the plan is to create a comprehensive framework for an integrated trail/bikeway network, along with recommendations for priority actions and funding strategies, including positioning regional trails for potential Legacy funding. (This is the fund created in 2008 by voters approving a 3/8 of 1% sales tax, part of which benefits trails.)

Once the Advisory Group prepares recommendations and priorities there will be numerous community meetings for review and revision. The Final Draft Duluth Trail and Bikeway Plan should be complete during June of 2011 and will be presented first to the Parks and Recreation Commission and then to the City Council for final approval.

The City of Duluth is poised and ready to move forward on its goal to be the outdoor and trails destination area in the Midwest. Be a part of that process!

The Process:
Phase One
A. Data Gathering and Evaluation-beginning January 2011
B. Prepare Trail and Bikeway system goals and preliminary routes-February
C. Review and complie stakeholders group plans and input. Prepare draft Trail and Bikeway Framework Plan. March-April
D. Preliminary Review draft of the Trails and Bikeway Plan - April-May
E. Draft Trail and Bikeway Plan -May-June

Phase Two (timeline to be announced soon)
A. Community Review of plan
B. Prepare Final Draft of Trail and Bikeway Master Plan
C. Stakeholder and City Review Plan
D. Parks and Planning Commission review Plan
E. Prepare Final Duluth Trails and Bikeways Plan
F. Present to City Council for adoption.

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