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Local View: Connecting downtown to Lake Superior: Duluth has chance to finally finish link

The parking lot on the south side of the 100 block of East Superior Street in Duluth. When the Lakewalk was being designed, and when I-35 was being designed through downtown, a Lakewalk-like connection was planned between downtown and Lake Superior in what then was a muffler shop and what now is a vacant lot. It never happened, though. (Clint Austin /

Duluth has two important retail and entertainment districts in its center: downtown and Canal Park. But it has been clear for decades that Duluth's downtown is not truly connected to Canal Park, Lake Place, the Lakewalk, and Lake Superior. Most tourists in downtown and Canal Park hotels must walk over one of two freeway overpasses to access the Lakewalk and Canal Park or downtown.

Kent WorleyThe obvious connection is from the 100 block of East Superior Street through Lake Place. This connection was in the original 1980 plan but was never completed by the city. Instead, a "temporary" boardwalk connector at First Avenue East was tucked behind a building.

A 37-year delay is too long for Duluth not to create our unique Lake Superior connection and to celebrate it.

In those 37 years, development in Canal Park, in downtown, and in the Historic Arts and Theater (H.A.R.T.) District were added, attracting more and more people — but without an obvious connection between them.

The property that was part of the original plan to complete access to the lake through Lake Place is soon to be sold and developed. This should, with cooperation, help create this missing lake connection. It is now time for business, government, and tourism leaders in Duluth to address the lack of this significant connection and encourage a creative solution before this opportunity disappears.

We all need to encourage city of Duluth administration, City Council, Duluth Economic Development Authority, and, of course, the owners and developers of these properties to complete this connection between our important commercial and tourist districts.

Citizen action kept the freeway from being built in Lake Superior, which created opportunities for our newfound lake amenities, including Lake Place and the Lakewalk and its strong relationships.

The lake is us! Citizen action can help complete our downtown connection back to the lake.

 Kent Worley of Grand Rapids, Mich., is a landscape architect who designed Lake Place, the Lakewalk, Leif Erikson Park, and Interstate 35 through downtown Duluth. He can be contacted at or at (218) 428-2162 by anyone wishing to help create the downtown-Lake Superior connection described in this commentary.