Parks & Recreation

Land Management

Pollinator Meadows

The City has restored several small areas to pollinator meadows including along the Marten Trail, in Piedmont Park and in Hartley Park. Urban development and pesticide use are causing great stress to pollinator species, so anything we can do to provide habitat in open areas for them will support our larger ecosystem. Once a pollinator garden is planted, continued stewardship including spot spraying or hand pulling weeds/non-natives is necessary for the first few years. The City's Natural Resources Management Program hires contractors to perform this work as funding allows.

After three years of intentional management knocking down weeds to provide space for the natives to grow, the gardens will become somewhat self-sustaining. A common turn of phrase for planting perennial native species is:

  • Year 1 - they sleep, focusing energy on its root system;
  • Year 2 - they creep, continuing to develop a strong root system, and blooming, but at a fraction of their mature size; 
  • Year 3 - they leap, growing to its full size, with robust blooms.

Another way to manage native plants is to use prescribed fire. Information on this project can be found in the following section.

Prescribed Fire Pilot Project (2023)

In early spring 2023, the City will be trying out a Prescribed Fire Pilot Program, wherein a licensed contractor, in collaboration with the City Fire Marshal, will use prescribed fire on three pollinator meadows - two in Hartley Park and one at the western end of Waabizheshikana: The Marten Trail near Spring Street. If the native plants respond well to the burning, which we expect that they will, the City may begin using controlled burns to manage other native plantings on City lands in the future.

Controlled burning, also known as prescribed burns or prescribed fire, is a land management strategy that uses the application of fire to support healthy ecosystems. Prescribed fires provide significant benefits to the landscape and have been used as an intentional land management technique for thousands of years. In this case, the goal of the burn is to reduce undesirable and invasive plants in these meadows, such as purple loosestrife and buckthorn, and encourage the re-growth and vitality of native perennials and grasses, such as little bluestem and black-eyed susan.

The exact timing of the burns will be unknown until the morning of, as conditions must be ideal and will depend on the temperature, wind speed, and other criteria set forth in a burn plan prepared by the contractor and approved by the Duluth Fire Marshal. The City will provide information to the public via a press release and an announcement on both the City of Duluth and the Parks and Recreation Facebook pages.

Strategic Public Lands Re-alignment Project

In 2023, the City will acquire over 2,000 acres (approx. 700 parcels) that were once tax-forfeit lands managed by the County. This multi-year project is funded in part by a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant fund from the EPA. Many of these newly-acquired parcels are  already being used for public enjoyment and recreation, such as many tracts in the Lester Park and Piedmont areas. However, as tax forfeit property, these parcels could have been sold at any time. Under City ownership, this acreage will be preserved for recreation, as parks or enlarged parks, and as designated Natural Areas. Many City and County staff have been involved in this project including City Planning, Stormwater, Properties, and Parks & Recreation staff. St. Louis County has also been a dedicated partner in the process.

For more information, visit Chapter 2 of the Natural Resources Management Program Plan, or visit: Strategic Public Lands Re-alignment Project.

Invasive Species Management

The City is on a seemingly never-ending battle with invasive species, and depending on funding and capacity, we do our best to tackle the myriad invasives that threaten our natural areas. Buckthorn, Honeysuckle, Knotweed, Garlic Mustard and Wild Parsnip are the species of most concern to the City and the following activities are underway to try to address them:

  • Save Our Great Lakes Grant 2023/2024: This grant will focus on controlling invasive species, specifically buckthorn and honeysuckle, in Hartley Natural Area and Lower Kingsbury restoration area.
  • CISMA: Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area
  • Duluth Invaders Team: A Volunteer group tasked with helping the City eliminate buckthorn, honeysuckle and other invasive species that threaten the natural ecosystems in the City. The current management of this group is a little bit in flux as of early 2023 as we work through some staff changes.

Forestry Restoration Projects

  • Under-Ash Planting in St. Louis River Coastal Wetlands, Minnesota Land Trust, Partner

The Minnesota Land Trust is restoring forested areas along the St. Louis River Estuary. Follow the link below to read more about this continuing effort.

  • Knowlton Creek Northern White Cedar/Eastern White Pine Forest Management Project, Izaak Walton League, Partner

In 2022, the local  chapter of the Izaak Walton League adopted a forest restoration site along Knowlton Creek to protect water quality and a unique white pine-white cedar forest ​community. The chapter protects seedlings with fencing or other methods, keep out invasive species and generally tends to the area whenever their members have time.