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.