by Jory Smith
This interactive map will help viewers find new parks to explore around Duluth and give a brief description on what those parks have to offer.
By Ellie Gerst and Mareesa Lindstrom
UMD's Civil and Mechanical Industrial Engineering students are building bonds between the university and the Duluth community this year, all while improving the city's energy efficiency in a project called Duluth Shines.
The students, in the classes Sustainable Design and Construction and Sustainable Energy Systems, participate in this project under the supervision of Dr. Mary Christiansen and Dr. Alison Hoxie.
"Mainly, we started the projects for two reasons," said Dr. Hoxie, an assistant professor in Mechanical Industrial Engineering at UMD, "To give the students real world problems to work on that will also help them improve their professional skills, communication, writing, and presentation skills, and then also because we wanted to help Duluth move in a more energy efficient and renewable energy way."
The Duluth Shines project pairs students up with local businesses who are interested in energy efficiency and renewable energy systems. This year, groups of students worked with BendTec, A Touch of Plasch, Canal Bark, Fire Hall 4, Essentia Health, Duluth Pottery, Ianni Hall and City of Duluth.
Aidan Fawcett, a senior in UMD's Mechanical Engineer program, worked with the City of Duluth on a solar project.
"We're actually working directly with the city's energy manager," Fawcett said, "He's responsible for looking at the different ways that the city uses energy and he's looking for ways he could help reduce how much energy they use and in turn, reduce how much money they spend on energy."
Fawcett's group was given different potential sites around Duluth to mount solar modules. From there, they had to identify the different solar modules responsible for converting the energy from the sun into power, as well as which sites would be most suited for these modules.
"Different types of modules can give you different types of rebates and incentives that can help reduce the economics of the project," Fawcett said.
According to Fawcett, Duluth's water pumps consume large amounts of energy, so the students sought ways to utilize a solar system to power these pumps.
"We looked at how we would actually mount [the solar modules] to the ground and how we would install these modules and then we looked into the detail like what angle would we want them at...We did estimations on how much energy we can expect to produce from these modules and the next step was making a tentative pumping schedule for these sites."
There are no plans to actually implement this solar project right now. This is mainly due to financial constraints, but Fawcett hopes that the research students have gathered on this topic will help aid the City of Duluth in powering their pumps with solar in the future. Either way, Fawcett has learned a lot from this project.
"One of the biggest outcomes I've had with this class is how to professionally approach a problem," Fawcett said, "Typically, in the school environment, you'll be given all the information you need to succeed. But in this class, you had to figure out what you needed to succeed. Doing this was a leaning process because, at first, I definitely wasn't asking the right questions. These weren't problems that students normally see in textbooks, they're actually in the real world, and I think it does a really good job connecting the student mindset to the professional world."
According to Dr. Christiansen, one of the biggest things this project is doing is helping bridge the gap between the university and the community.
"I think that's a really useful thing for the community," Dr. Christiansen said. "Not just in the projects that we're doing, but there are a lot of colleagues of ours that have crossed the bridge that we helped build. So, there's a lot of technology and expertise that's at the university that the community is maybe more welcome to listen to."
Duluth Shines is a great step forward in increasing Duluth’s livability, based on both the heightened community connection it has created and the environmental sustainability that students and businesses are working toward.
“Mainly through those connections,” Dr. Hoxie explained when asked how this project is improving Duluth, “But also anytime a business moves forward with any of the suggestions that the students have, that means there’s more energy efficiency in the city . . . Our energy becomes, as a whole, cleaner and that benefits everybody.”
According to Fawcett, creating a more livable city has largely to do with “combating climate change” because it appears to be a current aggravator in many conflicts happening around the world.
“Whether it be drying up a water source and causing mass migrations of people, or conflict over land driving migration of a lot of people, I think it all stems from climate change,” explained Fawcett. “Ways to combat climate change are these renewable energy sources that are not CO2 emitting energy sources because the world is going to need energy. It just depends on how you get it.”
Fawcett talked about how the sun isn’t “going to run out anytime soon,” which makes it a good energy source for the city. He also has his own way to make Duluth more livable.
“For me personally, it’s the individual actions I make daily that I think will make the world a better place,” Fawcett said. “And my definition of making the world a better place is just making it a place that the next generation, and future generations after that, will be able to live in it the same way I did.”
by Jory Smith
Open Spaces Map from ImagineDuluth
Livability is a value of the factors that total a community’s quality of life — including the built and natural environments, and recreation possibilities. If we want to increase Duluth’s livability we need to work together on defining and improving our open spaces.
In St. Louis County there is 4.5 million acres of land. Of that 4.5 million acres 900,000 of it is tax forfeited land. Tax forfeited land is land that has been acquired by the State of Minnesota due to the owners not paying their property taxes.
When land is seized it is put into one of two groups; conservation or non-conservation. Conservation means that it will be kept for forest management, such as timber production, and non-conservation means that the land will be appraised and then put up at auction.
Tax forfeited land goes up for auction three times a year and the highest bidder gets the land. If no one bids on a piece of land it is added to list where it can be bought at anytime for the appraised price.
Tax forfeit lands are typically open to the public for hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, etc. The map above shows some of the open space around Duluth, which includes parkland. Some of these forfeited lands are actually apart of these parklands. Which means when the tax forfeited land goes up for auction it can be bought and developed upon, even if it is a part of a park.
An incident as such has happened at Hawk Ridge. Land was bought and developed upon right on one of the bike trails in Hawk Ridge.
Trail by tax forfeited land.
Trail by tax forfeited land.
Hawk Ridge is a beautiful park reserve and a favorite among avid bird watchers during the hawk migration. The best time to go to Hawk Ridge is from the beginning of September to the end of October as it is during the hawk migration. Not to mention the amazing fall colors.
People can do many different things at Hawk Ridge; walk, run, hike, bike, bring their dogs, and they even have trails for people riding horses. When a house was built in Hawk Ridge it cut off access to one of the trails.
What kind of impact is this going to have? Are more houses going to be built?
I reached out to Duluth’s Park and Recreation Assistant Manager, Andrew Slade, about Duluth’s parks and tax forfeited land. I am still waiting to hear back.
Tax forfeited land, that comes up for sale at auction, is not common knowledge among community members, as the city doesn’t widely publicize tax forfeited land or the related auctions.
At a meeting for ImagineDuluth2035, community members came up with the following ideas that they think should happen regarding open spaces and tax forfeited land:
To make Duluth a more livable city everyone should be on the same page. Community members need to have more knowledge to decide how they would like to define open spaces, and education on what is entailed in determining its use.
To see current list of tax forfeited land click here.
by Jory Smith
When moving to a new city people want to know what makes that city livable. Livability is ensuring that the city accommodates the needs and wants of the people, a place that allows and promotes economic and personal growth and security for the individual. Two of the many things people look for is the walkability and the recreational activities available. Parks provide both of these things.
According to organizers of the National Walking Summit, improving the walkability of parkland key: "Safe routes to parks provide more opportunity to engage in physical activity and greater access to open space.”
What do you think when you hear the word "park?" Open space with a soccer field or baseball field? A playground, with a bunch of children running around? There are many different and varied reasons people go to parks, but all of these reasons pertain to livability.
In Duluth, there are over 100 parks with many different amenities. There are parks with beaches, parks that look out over Lake Superior, parks that are more woodsy, and parks that are more recreation-based. With so many different choices, how do Duluthians choose the parks that they go to? What matters most: the accessibility and convenience? Is it about what amenities are at that specific park? Or is it just about the beauty?
Here's what some Duluthians had to say.
Located between UMD and St. Scholastica there’s hiking trails along Chester Creek, ski trails and downhill skiing. There’s year-round outdoor recreation opportunities, such as an annual outdoor music every Tuesday evenings during the summer.
At Chester Bowl, a couple people talked about what they liked about the park. A majority of the people that were willing to talk mentioned the use of the trails.
Ang Graham said, “Love the trail, it’s a good place to do some running.”
Another liked feature of Chester Bowl was the year-round usability.
“Love this place year-round. Music in the park, crafts and vendors in the summer. Great trails for hiking. Skiing and sledding in the winter,” said Kody Taylor.
Found in West Duluth, this neighborhood park has a softball field and soccer fields, and a playground.
“It is a small park but I like the sense of security that it gives. I can sit on a bench and be able to see where my kids are,” says Jamie Anderson.
Park Point is located at the end of what is known as Minnesota Point. The park has a large playing field, sand volleyball courts, a playground, and multiple pavilions and grills. The beach is seven miles long and is a popular summer destination.
Scott Palmer believes that its, “…the Zenith City’s little secret beach on the shore of Lake Superior. The lake can take on a mind of it’s own.”
Located in the Woodland neighborhood, Hartley has 10 miles of trails. Hiking and mountain biking in the summer, and cross country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.
Sara Martin said, “Hartley has awesome trails and accessibility.”
Chad Turner says, “the place is a beautiful place to walk when your wanting to get away from everybody and nobody knowing where you’re at.”
Hartley has received a grant for park improvements including parking, trail and restoration.
When asked about improvements that community members would like to see to the parks there was a lot to say.
Sara Martin thinks that Hartley needs to add a few more signs to help with wooded way finding. “A day after the City of Duluth groomed the ski trails, hikers hiked all over the city’s fine work. A few more signs on where to hike and why, like interpretive signs, would be super helpful.”
Amy Westbrook wants better connector trails, accessibility for some of the parks, parking, the city and county need to better inform the public, and perhaps start a citizen group to help inform community members when things need changing or when something is occurring.
The City of Duluth says that it’s in the progress of:
These plans were proposed in 2010. How long is it going to take to accomplish? What progress have they made? How much is it costing? What kinds of funding are there?
If the city is able to complete the improvements that community members would like to see happen to their parks, it would make the livability of Duluth better. A big improvement that would increase the livability would be fixing existing trails and adding trails that would connect parks to each other. By improving the trails the walkability of Duluth would increase which in turn increases the livability.
Stay tuned for more information about the current improvements occurring in Duluth’s parks.
by Ben McDonald
Eight days before the announcement of President Trump’s executive orders effectively unravelling climate change policy implemented under the Obama Administration, Duluth Mayor Emily Larson took the stage at her first State of the City address and set a target for Duluth’s future carbon emission — an 80 percent reduction by 2050.
Following a series of applause, Mayor Larson set a goal for her first term in office.
“I’m setting a goal of 15 percent reduction in municipal emissions for my first term, which is ambitious,” Larson said. “But our times require it.”
The 80 percent target comes from The Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance’s (CNCA) 80X50 plan which has been adopted by major cities around the world including New York City, Boston, San Francisco, Berlin, and now Duluth, MN. A spokesperson for the mayor’s office said the 80X50 is “the most aggressive greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction plan currently in practice.”
So what does this mean for Duluth? What kind of changes could we see in the pursuit of 80X50? The short answer — no one knows exactly.
“80X50 isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to long-term deep carbon reduction,” Melanie Dobbs, a charter member of the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) fellowship said. “Instead, it’s more of template or a set of guidelines that cities can use to develop effective carbon reduction plans.”
The major components of 80X50 involve targeting four key carbon emitting systems: energy supply, building energy efficiency, transportation, and solid waste.
With these systems considered, what are some possible changes Duluth could experience in the future to move us closer our end goal of 80X50?
When we consider the chart below looking at the percentage of GHG emissions by sector in Duluth (visual learners FTW) what we see is a whole lot of blue which represents the largest provider of heat for Duluth; Duluth Energy System’s steam plant.
By way of the carbon emitting heavy process of coal combustion, the steam plant provides 165 buildings in Canal Park and the Downtown Duluth with heat.
Investing in decarbonizing building heating systems is a key strategy in 80X50’s system-change architecture, said a Duluth Energy System representative. It could be carried out via fuel switching to natural gas or biomass. The plan could have potential for major reductions in overall operational GHG emissions.
Mentioned in Mayor Larson’s address, transportation has been a lingering issue in Duluth, harming both citizens as well as the environment. Steps are already being made to improve the transportation system in the city. Earlier this week, the Duluth City Council passed an ordinance that will bring ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft to Duluth. Also be on the look for Canal Park’s first electric car charger which is set to be installed within the year.
Another strategy that both Mayor Larson and the CNCA have discussed is increasing the cost of driving in certain areas. Areas like Canal Park and Downtown Duluth could both see new parking pricing models instituted that are designed to deter driving and promote non-vehicle modes of transportation.
Add to this, the planned expansion of the DTA routes now extending to the underserved Lincoln Park area and Duluth finds its transportation landscape rapidly changing.
Protecting Lake Superior
A recent study found that roughly 1 in 10 children born in the Lake Superior area has unsafe levels of mercury in their blood. A horrifying revelation for a parent, like Duluth native and avid beachgoer Linda Schlacks. “It’s honestly depressing,” Schlacks said. “I love taking my kids to the beach in the summer and my husband will take them fishing on the lakes and rivers around here, but I feel like I’m almost putting my kids in danger.”
Mercury levels are another issue Mayor Larson discussed in her address. Larson, along with organizations dedicated to protecting the areas greatest natural resource, mandates regarding waste prevention and redesigning waste hauling could soon be on the docket.
With goals and sights set on the future, Duluth joins an international coalition that are taking the initiative to combat GHG emissions. They announce their fight in what seems to be a critical stage in the environmental battles embroiling our country and the world. Accomplishing the 80X50 challenge will be no easy feat considering the unique challenges Duluth and its surrounding areas face, but these challenges are met by citizens who have been surrounded by appreciation for the environment. What is the fate of our beloved Lake Superior? I guess we’ll find out in 2050.