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.